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Ukraine updates: Heavy Russian air raid repelled, Kyiv says

Published May 16, 2023last updated May 17, 2023

Ukrainian air defenses largely repelled a heavy Russian missile attack overnight, Kyiv says. European leaders are gathering for a Council of Europe summit, the first in years, to discuss the war. DW has the latest.

A flash lights up skies over Kyiv in the early dark hours of the morning
Russia launched its eighth aerial attack this month, targeting Kyiv with missiles and dronesImage: Gleb Garanich/REUTERS

Russia launched a fresh wave of air attacks, the eighth in May, on the Ukrainian capital early on Tuesday.

Ukrainian officials said defense systems had shot down objects over several districts of Kyiv, although Russian defense officials later said they had hit all targets overnight.

The night attack was complex, with drones, cruise, and likely ballistic missiles launched from different directions, Kyiv officials said.

"It was exceptional in its density: the maximum number of attack missiles in the shortest period of time," Serhii Popko, head of Kyiv's city military administration, said in comments posted on the Telegram messaging app.

"According to preliminary information, the vast majority of enemy targets in the airspace of Kyiv were detected and destroyed!" he added. 

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said in a tweet that "our sky defenders shot down six Russian hypersonic Kinzhal missiles and 12 other missiles" during the Russian attacks.  

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko earlier said falling debris set several cars on fire and damaged a building in the Solomyanskyi district in the capital's west, which appeared to be the hardest hit. Three people were injured.

Two cars caught fire in the city's southeastern Darnytskyi district, he added. Debris also fell on the city's zoo in the Shevchenkivskyi district.

Kyiv's military administration said falling debris was reported in the capital's Obolonskyi, Shevchenkivskyi, Solomyanskyi and Darnytskyi districts.

After a weekslong hiatus, Russia in late April resumed its tactic of long-range missile strikes and has launched a flurry of attacks in recent days, often targeting Kyiv.

Nearly all of Ukraine was under air raid alerts in early hours of Tuesday.

The latest attacks came just hours after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy returned from a Europe trip aimed at securing new weapons for a planned counteroffensive against Russia.

'Intense' Russian air attack on Kyiv: DW's Nick Connolly

Here are some of the other notable developments concerning Russia's war in Ukraine on Tuesday, May 16:

UK and Dutch pledge fighter jet support for Ukraine

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte pledged to build an "international coalition" to provide fighter jet support for Ukraine.

"The Prime Minister and Prime Minister Rutte agreed they would work to build (an) international coalition to provide Ukraine with combat air capabilities, supporting with everything from training to procuring F16 jets," a spokesman for Sunak's Downing Street office said in a statement following a meeting at the Council of Europe Summit in Iceland.

After visiting Sunak at his Chequers country estate outside London on Monday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he was "very positive" about creating a "jets coalition" in his country's war with Russia.

Sunak said on Monday the UK was preparing to open a flight school to train its pilots. French President Emmanuel Macron at the same time offered to train Ukrainian fighter pilots but ruled out sending war planes to Kyiv.

Reacting to the pledge in his nightly address, Zelenskyy called it "a good start to the coalition," adding: "Thank you all."

Scholz calls for war damage register

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has urged the creation of an international register of Ukrainian war damage.

He made the comments before a Council of Europe summit in Reykjavik.

Scholz said that such a register would "enable us to collectively record the damage caused by the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine."

The chancellor said that this would create a basis for the reconstruction of Ukraine.

Around 400,000 Russian fighters in Ukraine — Ukrainian intelligence

The Ukrainian military intelligence service estimates that around 400,000 Russians are deployed in Ukraine.

This consists of 370,000 soldiers, intelligence Kyrylo Budanov said on Ukrainian state television.

He said that there were also some 20,000 members of the Russian Guard elite paramilitary unit.

Private groups, including Wagner mercenaries, made up another 7,000 fighters.

Budanov claimed that there were very few foreigners fighting for Russia.

"They never bothered to have foreigners fight," he said. "Rather, they have taken the approach of making up for losses in Ukraine with convicts."

Hungary does not agree to tranche of Ukraine aid

The Hungarian government spokesman's office told the Reuters news agency that Budapest did not approve of the next tranche of military support for Ukraine.

"Hungary does not agree with the fact that the European Union, along with other existing tools, uses the European Peace Facility solely with regard to Ukraine as this does not allow sufficient funds to be channelled to promote the EU's interests in other areas," the office said.

Russia says it hit all targets overnight

At direct odds with Kyiv's assertion that it had successfully repelled and overnight missile barrage, Russia says its military hit all targets.

Kyiv earlier announced it had downed nearly 20 Russian missiles.

The defense ministry in Moscow said long-range precision-strike missiles had targeted facilities storing Western-supplied "ammunition, weapons and military equipment."

Ukraine commander says Bakhmut is 'mousetrap' for Russians

The commander of Ukraine's land forces, Oleksandr Syrskyi, has described the embattled town of Bakhmut as a trap for Russian troops.

"The Wagner mercenaries crawled into Bakhmut like rats into a mousetrap," Syrskyi said during a visit to the front line area.

Ukrainian units had been able to stage counterattacks several sections near Bakhmut through "active defense," he added. "The enemy has more resources, but we are destroying their plans," the commander said.

Ukraine claims progress in Bakhmut battle

Ukrainian forces say they have pushed Russian troops back to the north and south-west of Bakhmut — in some cases by several kilometers.

However, the head of the Russian Wagner Group of mercenaries, Yevgeny Prigozhin still claims he is making progress in conquering the last streets in the city of Bakhmut. Prigozhin on Tuesday published a video showing parts on a map he said were still held by Ukrainian troops.

The town of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine's Donetsk region was once home to more than 70,000 people. It had been at the epicenter of fighting for months, and the battle for it is the bloodiest and longest of the war so far.

Ukraine's first lady seeks more backing from Seoul

Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska has met South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol in Seoul as a special representative of her husband, President Volodymyr Zelensky.

South Korea's Yonhap news agency said Zelenska had said she was seeking "more radical" backing for Ukraine in its fight against Russia.

Tech-savvy South Korea is the world's ninth-largest arms exporter and has sent humanitarian assistance to Ukraine.

While it has sold tanks and howitzers to Poland, the Asian country —  which has a longstanding policy of not providing weapons to active conflict zones —has not provided them to Ukraine.

Speaking to Yonhap, Zelenska said Ukraine was "always waiting for its friends" when asked if Kyiv planned to invite Yoon to Kyiv.

"Such a visit would be very supportive to Ukrainians because it is a way to share our confrontation with us, at least for a day of our lives," the agency reported Zelenska as saying.

European leaders gather for Council of Europe summit for the first time in years

European leaders are gathering in Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland, for a two-day summit on the war in Ukraine. 

The meeting, called by the Council of Europe, is the first one to be held by the organization in nearly two decades.

The Strasbourg-based organization doesn't have the same high-stakes profile as the European Union, but it has been a guardian of human rights and the rule of law on the continent.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, French President Emmanuel Macron and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni are among the leaders expected to attend the summit.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, European Council President Charles Michel and officials from the UN will also attend the gathering.

The Council of Europe was founded in 1949 and has 46 members, including Turkey, Ukraine and the UK.

UK promises more air-defense hardware for Ukraine

US Abrams tanks land in Germany for Ukrainian training

The 31 tanks the United States promised earlier this year to deliver to Ukraine have arrived at a military training center in Germany, the US Defense Department said.

"I can confirm that the 31 M1 Abrams training tanks have arrived at Grafenwöhr, Germany in preparation for subsequent training of Ukrainian tank crews," Pentagon spokesman Pat Ryder said in Washington. Grafenwöhr, in northern Bavaria, is home to a US military training base.

Ryder said Ukrainian crews were expected to arrive and begin training within the next couple of weeks.

"As we've discussed previously, this extensive training program for Ukrainian crews and maintainers is intended to prepare them for their critical roles ahead in effectively operating the M1 tank and defending Ukrainian people," he said.

The long-awaited decision to send 31 US tanks to Ukraine was made back in January, in conjunction with Germany's drawn-out decision on whether or not to send Kyiv Leopard main battle tanks.

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rm, dh/fb (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)