Ukraine war live updates: Russia fends off drone, missile and 'balloon' attack; Ukraine says it deserves same support as Israel

The commander-in-chief of Ukraine’s armed forces on Wednesday said that he had emphasized Ukraine’s “urgent needs” on the battlefield in a conversation with top U.S. General Christopher Cavoli.

Col. Gen. Oleksandr Syrskyi said he reiterated Ukraine’s immediate need for “modern means of air defence, artillery and ammunition, as well as heavy armoured vehicles” when he spoke to Cavoli, the U.S.’ top military commander in Europe and head of the joint NATO forces in Europe.

The officials “discussed the strengthening of military-technical cooperation with the United States and other allies, the strengthening of Ukrainian air defence equipment, and the replenishment of ammunition,” Syrskyi said on Telegram, according to a NBC translation.

Soldiers of the Armed Forces of Ukraine from the unit of the mobile air defense group shoot down enemy drones using the ZU-23-2 Soviet 23-mm twin anti-aircraft gun on April 16, 2024 in an undisclosed location in Ukraine.

Kostiantyn Liberov | Getty Images

They also exchanged views on the tactical situation on the battlefield, he said.

Last weekend, the Ukrainian commander had warned that the battlefield situation in eastern Ukraine had “significantly worsened.” He and other officials in the country have said that artillery and ammunition shortages are threatening Ukraine’s chances of defeating Russia.

Cavoli has been advocating for more military aid for Ukraine at a time when a $61 billion aid package for broader foreign funding is still blocked in the U.S. Congress.

On Wednesday, Cavoli told Congress that Ukraine will run out of artillery shells and air defense interceptors “in fairly short order” without U.S. support. Addressing the House Armed Services Committee, Cavoli said that Russia was currently firing five artillery shells for every one fired by Ukrainian forces and that disparity could increase in coming weeks to 10 to one, Reuters reported.

— Holly Ellyatt

Russia said its air defense systems intercepted almost 50 Ukrainian drones, missiles and “small-sized balloons” over several of its border regions Wednesday night.

“Over the past night, attempts by the Kyiv regime to carry out terrorist attacks on targets on the territory of the Russian Federation using Tochka-U operational-tactical missiles, the RM-70 Vampire multiple launch rocket system, aircraft-type unmanned aerial vehicles [drones] and small balloons were stopped,” the Ministry of Defense said on Telegram.

It said air defenses intercepted two “Tochka-U” missiles, 19 rockets, 20 drones and five “small-sized balloons” over the Belgorod, Rostov and Voronezh regions that border Ukraine. The regions, and oil industry infrastructure, have found themselves to be the targets of numerous drone and missile attacks in recent months.

A view shows the damaged Belgorod city hall hit by a drone attack in Belgorod on March 12, 2024.

Stringer | Afp | Getty Images

There have been several reports of small-sized “balloons” being involved in attacks recently, although it’s unclear whether these are reconnaissance “spy” balloons, involved in intelligence-gathering or are used to carry and deploy explosive devices.

The governor of the Belgorod region, Vyacheslav Gladkov, said two people were injured during the Ukrainian attacks last night. Voronezh’s governor said a woman was injured a drone attack and another civilian was injured in the Rostov region, the region’s governor said.

Ukraine has not commented on the alleged attacks and rarely does when it comes to attacks on Russian territory. CNBC was unable to verify the information from Russia’s Defense Ministry.

— Holly Ellyatt

It’s been a difficult week for Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy as he continues to plead with the country’s allies for more military aid, air defenses and backing to help beat Russia.

Kyiv has watched how Israel’s Western partners actively intervened last Saturday to help to defend the state from a massive Iranian drone and missile strike, with many of the projectiles intercepted by U.S., British, French and Jordanian forces.

The solid allied response prompted Ukraine’s leadership to ask why its international partners can’t do the same for Ukraine, with one of Zelenskyy’s advisors telling NBC News this week that the disparity in support from the U.S. and other Western countries “looks extremely strange.”

Although he has to tread a fine line between maintaining their support and goodwill, and campaigning for deeper assistance, Zelenskyy echoed that sentiment when addressing EU leaders Wednesday night.

“Here in Ukraine, in our part of Europe, unfortunately, we do not have the level of defense that we all saw in the Middle East a few days ago when, thanks to the combined power of the allies, they managed to shoot down almost all the missiles and drones that attacked Israel,” Zelenskyy said as he addressed EU leaders gathered in Brussels, via a video link.

“We are still convincing that we need to protect Europe from ballistic missiles and ‘Shaheds’ [Iranian-made drones], from cruise missiles and bombs, as it happened in the skies of Israel and other countries in the region. Our Ukrainian sky and the sky of our neighbors deserve the same security,” he said.

— Holly Ellyatt

Polish finance minister says 'main risk of inflation is behind us'

The Russia-Ukraine war is a major threat to the global economy and the war is impacting markets in several ways, Andrzej Domański, Poland’s foreign minister, said on Wednesday.

The war is the “single most important factor” when it comes to threats against global growth, he said.

Domański pointed out that increased defence spending and tensions in agriculture markets are additional economic areas that are being impacted by the war.

— Sophie Kiderlin

Major Ukrainian media company 1+1 Media said it had been the subject of a “hostile attack” Wednesday and the broadcasting of its satellite TV channels had been suspended.

In a statement on its website, 1+1 Media said that 39 of its own and partner TV channels were affected by the “cynical attack.”

“We will remind you that from the beginning of March, the Russian Federation began actively jamming the satellite signal of Ukrainian TV channels,” it said, according to a translation.

“This is not the last attempt by the Russian Federation to silence the content of Ukrainian TV channels in order to disorient society and spread hostile narratives, especially in the territories bordering temporarily occupied cities and villages.”

1+1 Media urged Ukrainians to “observe information hygiene” in order to help prevent Russia spreading disinformation.

“All these actions are carried out by the Russian Federation with the aim of destabilizing the situation in Ukraine. We recommend, if possible, to ensure the reception of TV signals of TV channels from various alternative sources — T2, cable, OTT, Internet (websites of TV channels, YouTube),” it added.

— Holly Ellyatt

The Kremlin has refused to confirm or deny whether it was forewarned of Iran’s drone and missile attack on Israel last weekend.

When asked by reporters if Russia had been told by its ally that an attack was coming ahead of the assault on Saturday, Kremlin Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov appeared rattled and refused to answer.

“We don’t even want to talk about the escalation of this conflict. This is against the interests of Israel, Iran, and the entire region,” Peskov said, in comments translated by Reuters.

“The Russian Federation continues close, constructive working contacts with Iran,” Peskov said. “We also have constructive contacts with Israel.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov looks on during a visit of CIS heads of state to the Catherine Palace at the Tsarskoye Selo State Museum and Reserve in Saint Petersburg, Russia December 26, 2023. 

Sputnik | Via Reuters

Peskov reiterated calls for a de-escalation of tensions in the Middle East, calling on “countries in the region to exercise reasonable restraint.”

He said he would not characterize the current conflict between Iran and Israel as “indirect,” stating, “When the consulate of one country is destroyed it can hardly be called an indirect conflict.”

Iran attacked Israel after Israel launched an airstrike on an Iranian consular building in Damascus, Syria. Israel has vowed to retaliate against the attack by Iran. Russia and Western nations have called for cool heads in the region.

— Holly Ellyatt

“Active hostilities” are unfolding in the area around the town of Chasiv Yar in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, with a Russian official claiming that Russian forces will soon seize the town.

Denis Pushilin, the head of the separatist, self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, said the “liberation” of Chasiv Yar, a town just a few kilometers west of Bakhmut in Donetsk, was approaching.

“Our units are advancing at different rates in certain areas, but in some areas it is faster,” he told Russian channel Soloviev Live, news agency RIA Novosti reported. “We see that now the most active actions are in the Avdiivka direction, and the Chasov Yar direction, which is also at the center of our attention,” Pushilin said.

This photograph taken on April 2, 2024, shows “dragon’s teeth” fortifications near the town of Chasiv Yar, Donetsk region, amid Russia’s invasion on Ukraine. The eastern city of Chasiv Yar is facing a “difficult and tense” situation, a Ukrainian army official said on March 25, 2024. If Russia took Chasiv Yar, it could step up attacks on the strategic city of Kramatorsk that is already facing growing bombardment. 

Roman Pilipey | Afp | Getty Images

Capturing the town, which Russia calls “Chasov Yar,” is seen as the immediate military objective for Russian forces in the eastern Ukrainian region, with analysts believing the Russians will then use it as a springboard to advance to other towns, including Sloviansk and Kramatorsk.

The head of Ukraine’s armed forces warned Sunday that Russia wanted to seize the town by May 9, or Victory Day, when Moscow commemorates the Soviet victory in World War II.

Analysts at the Institute for the Study of War confirmed Tuesday that Ukrainian air defense shortages were assisting Russian forces’ advances in eastern Ukraine.

“Sparse and inconsistent Ukrainian air defense coverage along the front resulting from shortages in Ukrainian air defense systems and missiles has facilitated Russia’s intensification of guided and unguided glide bomb strikes, which Russian forces used to tactical effect in their seizure of Avdiivka in February 2024 and which Russian forces are using again during their current offensive operations near Chasiv Yar,” the ISW noted in its latest analysis.

— Holly Ellyatt

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