Russia Using Iranian Drones in Ukraine, Britain Says

Britain’s Defense Ministry said in an intelligence update Saturday that “In recent days, there has been an uptick in Russia’s campaign of long-range strikes against Ukraine’s critical national infrastructure.”

The ministry tweeted, “The waves of strikes have largely consisted of air and maritime launched cruise missiles, but have almost certainly also included Iranian-provided uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAVs) being launched from Russia’s Krasnodar Region.”

“Previously these UAVs had been primarily launched from locations within occupied Crimea,” the ministry said. “The change of launch site is likely due to Russian concerns about the vulnerability of Crimea, while it is also convenient for resupply from the weapons’ likely arrival point in Russia, at Astrakhan.”

Washington’s focus: Help Ukraine succeed

The United States will provide additional security assistance to Ukraine, National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby told VOA in an interview Friday.

Asked if Washington would heed Russia’s warning not to deliver sophisticated Patriot air defense missiles or risk the consequences, Kirby replied “Russia will not dictate to the United States or any other country what security assistance we provide to Ukraine.”

The U.S. official said Washington is in “lockstep with the Ukrainians, talking to them almost every day about what their needs are, and making sure that we are best meeting those needs.”

Kirby stressed that air defense capabilities are becoming a chief requirement of Ukraine’s military after Russia’s “unprecedented” airstrikes with cruise missiles and Iranian drones “the likes of which we’ve just seen again over the last 12 to 18 hours,” he told VOA.

Kirby said Washington’s focus is to help Ukraine succeed in the battlefield in whichever way Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy sees fit. The U.S., he said, does not dictate to Ukraine how to defend its territory.

In his video address, Friday, Zelenskyy said Russia still had enough missiles for more massive strikes like the one it launched earlier in the day against Ukraine’s electrical grid.

“Whatever the rocket worshipers from Moscow are counting on, it still won’t change the balance of power in this war,” he said in a video address.

Warning from Russia

On Thursday, Russia’s foreign ministry warned the U.S. that if it ships sophisticated Patriot air defense missiles to Ukraine, Moscow would consider it a “provocative move” that could prompt a response from the Kremlin.

Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova did not spell out what Moscow’s response might be but said the United States should “draw the right conclusions” from Russia’s warnings that equipment supplied by the U.S. is a legitimate target for Russian attacks. With its arms shipments to Ukraine, she said the U.S. already had “effectively become a party” to the war.

U.S. officials this week confirmed to reporters plans to send the Patriot missile system to Ukraine, which Zelenskyy has long said Ukraine needs to defend itself against an onslaught of Russian airstrikes targeting vital infrastructure, including power and water facilities. However, no official announcement has been made.

Russia fired more than 70 missiles at Ukraine Friday in one of its biggest attacks since the start of the war, knocking out power in the second-biggest city and forcing Kyiv to implement emergency blackouts nationwide, Ukrainian officials said.

Three explosions were heard in the city of Kyiv alone, one of which was close to the home of VOA’s reporter Anna Chernikova. She reported from Kyiv that the explosion was so powerful, it shook her apartment building.

Vitali Klitschko, the mayor of Kyiv, said late Friday that just a third of its residents had both heat and water and 40% electricity. The metro system — a crucial transport artery – remained shut down, he added.

Despite widespread damage on the country’s power infrastructure, after some repairs, Ukrainian grid operator Ukrenergo lifted a state of emergency that had forced it to impose blackouts. But Ukrenergo also warned that more time would be needed to repair equipment and restore electricity than in previous bombardments.

Other explosions were reported in Kyiv, Zaporizhzhia, Mykolaiv, Poltava, Zhytomyr, Dnipropetrovsk, Vinnytsia, Donetsk, and some western regions. The northeastern city of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest, was also badly hit, knocking out electricity, heating and running water. Later Friday, the Interfax-Ukraine news agency cited regional Governor Oleh Syniehubov as saying that 55% of the city’s power was back up, and 85% in the surrounding region.

Local authorities of the city of Kryvyi Rih, Zelenskyy’s hometown, reported strikes in the residential area. Three people were killed and more than a dozen were injured when an apartment block was hit in central Kryvyi Rih. Another person died in shelling in Kherson in the south, they said. Russian-installed officials in occupied eastern Ukraine said 12 people had died by Ukrainian shelling.

Ukrainian Air Force Command reported that Russia has launched some 76 missiles at Ukraine targeting critical energy infrastructure. About 60 of those missiles were destroyed by air defense. Thirty-seven of 40 missiles were shot down by Ukrainian air defense over Kyiv alone. Ten missiles were destroyed in the air over the Dnipropetrovsk region.

Moscow says attacks on basic infrastructure are militarily legitimate. Ukraine says the attacks intended to cause civilian misery are a war crime.

Some information for this story came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.

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