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Ukraine Expects Help With Warplanes    02/06 06:14

   

   KYIV, Ukraine (AP) -- Ukraine's defense minister expressed confidence Sunday 
that Western allies would agree to the country's latest weapons request -- 
warplanes to fight off Russian forces that invaded nearly a year ago.

   Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov told a news conference in Kyiv that 
Ukraine has already received everything from its "wish list to Santa," except 
planes.

   "There will be planes, too," Reznikov predicted. "The question is just what 
kind exactly.... Consider that this mission is already completed."

   So far, Ukraine has won support from Baltic nations and Poland in its quest 
to obtain Western fighter jets. But several Western leaders have expressed 
concern that providing warplanes could provoke the Kremlin and draw their 
countries deeper into the conflict, which has cost tens of thousands of lives 
and wreaked massive destruction.

   Kyiv says such jets are essential to challenging Russia's air superiority 
and ensuring success in a Russian offensive that Reznikov predicted could begin 
around the war's one-year anniversary, Feb. 24.

   "Not all Western weapons will arrive by then, but we have the resources and 
reserves to help stabilize and sustain the offensive," Reznikov told reporters.

   Since the war began, Western leaders have balked at some of Ukraine's 
requests, such as for longer-range missiles and tanks, only to agree later. The 
warplanes are the latest example.

   Ukraine has relocated its warplanes and concealed air defense assets, 
hampering Moscow's efforts to gain full control of the skies. After suffering 
early losses, the Russian air force has avoided venturing deep into Ukraine's 
airspace and mostly focused on close front line support.

   German-made tanks are on the way to Ukraine. Reznikov said his forces would 
begin training on Leopard tanks in Europe on Monday, before their delivery to 
Ukraine. So far, Canada, Poland, Germany, Great Britain and the United States 
have announced they will supply tanks to Ukraine.

   The Kremlin has said Western countries' supply of increasingly sophisticated 
and more weapons will only prolong the conflict, and it has characterized NATO 
as a direct participant. Reznikov, commenting on the supply of Western weapons 
and the state of the Ukrainian army, took the rhetoric further on Sunday, 
telling reporters: "I absolutely boldly claim that we have become a de facto 
NATO country. We only have a de jure part left."

   Ukraine has applied to join NATO, as have two of Russia's other neighbors, 
Finland and Sweden.

   On the battlefield, Kharkiv regional governor Oleh Syniehubov said four 
people were injured Sunday when a Russian S-300 missile fell near an apartment 
block in Kharkiv city, and another was hurt when a missile hit a university 
building. Video showed the building hit was the National Academy for Urban 
Economy, about 700 meters from the city's central square.

   Meanwhile, heavy fighting continued in the Donetsk region of eastern 
Ukraine, one of four regions that Russia illegally annexed last year even 
though its forces do not fully control the area. Donetsk governor Pavlo 
Kyrylenko said five civilians were wounded in rocket attacks during the night 
in the city of Druzhkivka and that the town of Avdiivka and its outskirts were 
also fired on.

   In the Donetsk city of Bakhmut, the epicenter of the fiercest fighting in 
Ukraine, the Ukrainian military said Sunday it had repelled Russian attacks. 
The founder of the mercenary group Wagner, Yevgeny Prigozhin, said in a 
Telegram post that Kyiv's forces were not retreating and that "there are fierce 
battles for every street, every house, every stairwell."

   In the Black Sea port of Odesa, workers labored to connect temporary 
generators shipped in to restore electricity. The city and surrounding area 
were plunged into darkness over the weekend following a large-scale network 
failure.

   Grid operator Ukrenergo said that the failure involved equipment "repeatedly 
repaired" after Russia's savage strikes on Ukraine's energy grid, and that 
residents should brace themselves for lengthy blackouts.

   As of Sunday afternoon, about 280,000 customers -- 40% of the customers -- 
remained without power, said prime minister Denis Shmyhal.

 
 
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