Times Standard (Eureka)

5 Ukrainian civilians killed as sides mull next move

- By Susie Blann

Fighting remained largely deadlocked Monday in eastern Ukraine where Russian shelling killed five civilians over the past day, according to Ukrainian officials, as the warring sides sized up their needs for renewed military pushes expected in coming weeks.

The casualties included a woman who was killed and three others who were wounded by the Russian shelling of Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city in the country's northeast, regional Gov. Oleh Syniyehubo­v said Monday.

Russia's troops seized large areas of the northeaste­rn Kharkiv region in the months following its invasion of its neighbor last February. But Ukrainian counteroff­ensives that began in August snatched back Russian-occupied territory, notably in Kharkiv.

Those successes lent weight to Ukraine's arguments that its troops could deliver more stinging defeats to Russia if its Western allies provided more weaponry.

Kyiv last week won promises of tanks from the United States and Germany.

Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki on Monday hinted at the prospect of more upcoming pledges, saying that “any activity aimed at strengthen­ing Ukraine's defense powers is under consultati­on with our NATO partners.”

Such a move could encounter some familiar political obstacles, however.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz, after demurring for weeks over sending Germany's Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, looks set to dig his heels in over providing fighter jets. Germany would not have the key role in aircraft deliveries that it did with the Leopards, which are German-made and require German export approval.

Scholz, who is on a trip to South America, said he regretted the emergence of the discussion on aircraft.

He said in Chile on Sunday that a serious debate is necessary and not a “competitio­n to outdo each other … in which perhaps domestic political motives are in the foreground, rather than support for Ukraine.”

Military analysts say more aid is crucial if Ukraine is to block an expected Russian spring offensive and launch its own effort to push back Russian forces.

“The pattern of delivery of Western aid has powerfully shaped the pattern of this conflict,” the Institute for the Study of War, a U.S.based think tank, said late Sunday.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said keeping up the pace of allies' support is crucial.

“The speed of supply has been, and will be, one of the key factors in this war. Russia hopes to drag out the war, to exhaust our forces. So we have to make time our weapon,” he said Sunday in his nightly video address. “We must speed up the events, speed up the supply and opening of new necessary weaponry options for Ukraine.”

With the war approachin­g its one-year mark and draining both sides' resources, the Western call for weapons for Kyiv is spreading beyond NATO.

The alliance's secretaryg­eneral, Jens Stoltenber­g, on Monday called for South Korea to send direct military support to Ukraine, too. South Korea is a growing arms exporter with a well-equipped, U.S.-backed military.

France and Australia announced Monday plans to jointly produce and send several thousand 155-millimeter artillery shells to Ukraine. The first deliveries are expected in the first quarter of this year.

On the Russian side, indication­s are emerging that more manpower may be enlisted for the fight.

The British Ministry of Defense noted Monday that the Kremlin never formally rescinded last September's order for a partial mobilizati­on of reservists that boosted troop numbers for combat in Ukraine. It said Russia may be keeping the door open for further call-ups. The mobilizati­on in the fall was reported to have amassed 300,000 more troops.

“The Russian leadership highly likely continues to search for ways to meet the high number of personnel required to resource any future major offensive in Ukraine, while minimizing domestic dissent,” it said in a tweet.

Russian officials have denied plans for additional troop mobilizati­ons, while also tapping into a mercenary force.

With more talk of military aid from Ukraine's allies, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov insisted Western weapons won't stop Russia.

“Ukraine keeps demanding new weapons and the West is encouragin­g those demands,” Peskov said in a conference call with reporters Monday. “It's a deadlock. It results in a significan­t escalation and makes NATO countries increasing­ly involved in the conflict.”

 ?? ANDRII MARIENKO — THE ASSOCIATED PRESS ?? A woman carries her child as they evacuate from a residentia­l building which was hit by a Russian rocket at the city center of Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Monday.
ANDRII MARIENKO — THE ASSOCIATED PRESS A woman carries her child as they evacuate from a residentia­l building which was hit by a Russian rocket at the city center of Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Monday.

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