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Zelensky calls for more Western air defence systems to 'save lives'

By AFP - Mar 02,2024 - Last updated at Mar 02,2024

KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Saturday urged the West to deliver more air defence systems after five people were killed in the latest Russian strikes.

Overnight aerial attacks claimed three lives in the southern port city of Odesa, while shelling killed one person in the Kharkiv region near the Russian border and another in the frontline Kherson region, Ukrainian officials said.

"Russia continues to hit civilians," Zelensky said in a post on social media.

"We need more air defences from our partners. We need to strengthen the Ukrainian air shield to add more protection for our people from Russian terror. More air defence systems and more missiles for air defence systems saves lives," he said.

Ukraine is currently on the back foot in the two-year war as a crucial $60-billion aid package is held up in the United States congress.

In Odesa, "a nine-storey building was destroyed as a result of an attack by Russian terrorists", Interior Minister Igor Klymenko said on Saturday in a post on Telegram.

The attack killed at least three people, including a child, with others still unaccounted for, Ukraine's emergency services said.

"Rescuers pulled out the body of a child, believed to be a three-to-five-year old, from the rubble of a house," the office of Ukraine's Prosecutor General said.

Footage shared from the scene showed several floors of a residential building collapsed and its facade ripped off.

In Kharkiv, a 76-year-old man was killed in a shelling attack shortly after midnight, regional governor Oleg Synegubov said.

And shelling in the frontline Kherson region on Saturday morning killed one more person, the provincial head said.


 'Difficult situation' 


Ukraine's air force said Russia had launched 17 Iranian "Shahed" drones overnight and fired three missiles.

It said it downed 14 of the drones, but falling debris caused damage to residential buildings in Odesa and Kharkiv.

Kyiv also appeared to have had launched its own overnight drone attack that damaged a residential building in Saint Petersburg, Russia’s second city.

The Russian head of the city reported an “incident” had occurred — language previously used to describe Ukrainian attacks — but said there were no casualties.

Videos on Russian social media showed what appeared to be a drone falling from the sky into the building, triggering an explosion, and locals said the blown out windows and small fires were caused by a drone hit.

Ukrainian media reported Russian air defences had shot down a drone that was targeting an oil depot less than a kilometre away from the building struck in Saint Petersburg.

Kyiv has hit several Russian oil refineries in recent months in what it has called fair retribution for Moscow’s attacks on Ukraine’s power grid.

The attacks come with Russia seeking to press its advantage on the battlefield.

Kyiv has admitted it is heavily outgunned and outnumbered, facing ammunition shortages amid aid delays.

Half of all promised Western ammunition arrives in the country late, the defence minister has said — in what he called critical delays that cost lives and territory.

Russian forces have pressed westwards following last month’s capture of Avdiivka, and have seized several small villages in recent days.

Visiting frontline military posts on Saturday, Ukraine’s new Commander-in-Chief Oleksandr Syrsky said “the situation at the front remains difficult, but controlled.”

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