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Russia perseveres with bombardments of Ukraine in an effort to wear down air defences

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Kyiv, Mar 28 (AP) Russia fired salvoes of drones and missiles overnight at southern and eastern regions of Ukraine, authorities said on Thursday, injuring more than a dozen people as the Kremlin’s forces persevered with attritional attacks designed to wear down Ukrainian defences.

Air defence systems intercepted 26 out of 28 Shahed drones, Ukraine’s air force said.

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Russian forces also launched five missiles overnight, it said.

The regular bombardment of Ukraine by the Kremlin’s forces during the war has recently gained momentum, with missile barrages of the capital Kyiv and strikes on energy facilities across the country.

The attacks also aim to weaken Ukrainian morale and act as retribution for Ukrainian long-range strikes on Russian soil.

One of Russia’s goals is to “deplete Ukraine’s inventory of ground-based air defence,” according to a recent military assessment published by the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

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That would erode some of Ukraine’s combat ability as it waits on pledged but delayed military support from the West, including ammunition for its artillery and air defences.

“Kyiv is confronted by the threat that an attritional war in the air domain will increasingly favour Russia without adequate support from the US and its allies,” the IISS said. “Ukraine’s ability to continue to counter Russian air threats and impose costs on the Russian Aerospace Forces remains important to the outcome of the war.”

Ukraine is awaiting the delivery of F-16s fighter jets, which will help place pressure on Russia, from its Western partners. Ukrainian pilots have been training in the West for months on how to fly the warplanes.

Russian President Vladimir Putin warned Ukraine’s Western allies against providing air bases in their countries from where the F-16s could launch sorties against the Kremlin’s forces, saying those bases would be a “legitimate target.”

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The F-16s require a high standard of runways and reinforced hangars to protect them when they are on the ground.

Military analysts have said the arrival of potentially dozens of F-16s won’t be a game-changer, though Ukrainian officials have welcomed them as an opportunity to hit back at Russia’s air dominance.

Putin insisted the F-16s “won’t change the situation on the battlefield.”

“We will destroy their warplanes just as we destroy their tanks, armoured vehicles and other equipment, including multiple rocket launchers,” Putin said in comments to military pilots during a visit to an air base late Wednesday.

Even so, Putin said, Russia has no intention of starting a war with NATO. He said it was “sheer nonsense” to think that Russia could attack a NATO member country after the Ukraine war.

Authorities in the Mykolaiv region, near the Black Sea in southern Ukraine, said 12 people were injured and six residential buildings were damaged in a Russian strike on the city on Wednesday afternoon with a ballistic missile.

In an overnight attack on the southern Ukraine region of Zaporizhzhia, Shahed drones struck a residential area, lightly injuring two women aged 72 and 74, according to regional Gov. Ivan Fedorov. Rescue services said seven buildings were damaged.

The Black Sea city of Odesa repelled three missile and drone attacks, officials said. (AP)




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