Russia launches more than 40 missiles across Ukraine
Russia launched rocket attacks across Ukraine on Saturday morning, targeting mostly military targets.
The New York Times reported that more than 40 rockets were used in the attacks, which the newspaper said were launched from Belarusian airspace just hours before a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian Alexander G. Lukashenko in St. Petersburg.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian troops announced that they were withdrawing from the eastern city of Sievierodonetsk after weeks of fierce fighting with Russian forces.
Luhansk regional governor Serhiy Haidai said the troops had been ordered to relocate to new positions.
Ukraine said Russian forces had completely occupied the neighboring town of Lysychansk which also lies in the eastern Luhansk region. Moscow claimed to have surrounded about 2,000 Ukrainian troops in the area.
The Kremlin is likely to take full control of Luhansk province, one of Moscow's declared targets.
To stabilize the situation in Luhansk, Ukraine needs weapons, said the highest Ukrainian general, his American counterpart on Friday.
"We discussed the operational situation and the flow of international technical assistance," Ukrainian General Valeriy Zaluzhniy wrote in the Telegram application after a phone call with General Mark Milley, the chief of the US General Staff.
Ukraine has said that Russia's advantage in artillery, on the Donbas front line, is costing Ukrainian troops dearly, so Kiev has called on Western partners to supply it with more weapons.
A senior US defense official on Friday praised Ukraine's decision to withdraw from Sievierodonetsku, calling it a "professional" and "tactical" move.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Russian forces had been able to advance around Sievierodonetsk, but at considerable cost, he added.
"The Russians have suffered many casualties and losses in heavy weapons," the official said. "Russian forces are showing signs of weakening consumption and morale, and this is affecting their ability to advance rapidly."
The United States pledged $ 450 million more in military aid to Ukraine this week, including other long-range missile systems, in addition to the $ 1 billion in aid announced about a week ago.
The top US defense official said Friday that Ukrainian forces are training with four other high-mobility artillery missile systems (HIMARS) as part of the newly announced package. American systems will be put to use in the war, within a few weeks.