British defence secretary confirms UK will donate long-range missiles to Ukraine; Zelenskiy says country needs more time to prepare for spring offensive
Britain’s defence secretary, Ben Wallace, has confirmed reports that the UK is donating long-range Storm Shadow missiles to Ukraine. Wallace said Ukrainians will have the “best chance to defend themselves”.
The US ambassador to South Africa has accused the country of covertly providing arms to Russia – a charge that drew an angry rebuke from Pretoria. Reuben Brigety told a media briefing that the US believed weapons and ammunition had been loaded on to a Russian freighter that docked at a Cape Town naval base in December. “We are confident that weapons were loaded on to that vessel and I would bet my life on the accuracy of that assertion,” Brigety said, according to a video of the remarks. “The arming of Russia by South Africa … is fundamentally unacceptable.”
A Ukrainian brigade commander fighting in the ruins of Bakhmut said Russian mercenary forces have stepped up shelling and artillery attacks in recent days and were not facing a munitions shortage, despite its chief’s claims to the contrary. Russian mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin said on Thursday that the situation on the flanks near the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut was unfolding in line with the “worst of all expected scenarios”.
Poland’s defence minister, Mariusz Blaszczak, confirmed that the army was aware of a possible missile heading towards the country in December but failed to inform the government. Poland has been on alert for possible spillover of weaponry from the war in neighbouring Ukraine, especially since two people were killed near the border last November by what Warsaw concluded was a misfired Ukrainian air defence missile.
Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said the country needs more time to prepare for a much-anticipated spring counteroffensive, saying: “We can go forward and be successful. But we’d lose a lot of people. I think that’s unacceptable. So we need to wait. We still need a bit more time.”
Zelenskiy again denied any Ukrainian responsibility for the drone incident over the Kremlin. Russia has accused Washington and Kyiv of masterminding the attack, which it described as an assassination attempt on Russian president, Vladimir Putin. Putin was not in the Kremlin at the time, and no injuries were caused by the drones.
A Ukrainian drone attacked an oil storage depot in the Russian border region of Bryansk, the local governor has claimed in a post on his Telegram channel on Thursday. There were no casualties after the attack on the facility near the town of Klintsy, owned by Russia’s Rosneft oil company, though one storage tank was partly damaged, the governor, Alexander Bogomaz, said.
Belgorod’s governor, Vyacheslav Gladkov, claimed that seven settlements in the Russian region have been left without electricity after Ukrainian shelling over the border.