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Russia says targeting Azovstal plant with ‘artillery and planes’, UK PM Johnson promises additional aid to Ukraine

MOSCOW/LONDON: The Russian military said on Tuesday that its forces and pro-Moscow separatists were using artillery and aircraft to target Azovstal, the steelworks in the city of Mariupol where Ukrainian fighters are making their last stand.

The Russian Defense Ministry accused members of the Azov Battalion and other Ukrainian troops of using a break in the fighting to resume their combat positions at the factory.

“With artillery and aircraft, units of the Russian army and the Donetsk People’s Republic are beginning to destroy” the “firing positions” of Ukrainian troops, the Ministry of Defense said in a statement taken up by the Russian news agencies.

Mariupol is one of Ukraine’s worst-hit cities.

kyiv said more than 100 civilians were evacuated over the weekend from the sprawling factory in Azovstal, the last stronghold of Ukrainian forces in Mariupol, where soldiers and civilians took refuge in a maze of underground tunnels .

UK military aid

Prime Minister Boris Johnson also announced an additional £300m ($376m, 358m) British military aid to Ukraine on Tuesday as he hailed its resistance to Russia as its “best hour” in a remote address to the Kyiv parliament.

Johnson used the video-linked speech, the first by a foreign leader to Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada since the Russian invasion on Feb. 24, to praise Kyiv for fighting “with the energy and courage of lions.”

“It is Ukraine’s finest hour, one that will be remembered and retold for generations to come,” Johnson said, using a phrase first used by his hero Winston Churchill in a speech in 1940. .

“The so-called irresistible force of (Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s war machine has shattered on the unshakeable object of Ukrainian patriotism and love of country.

“We will continue to provide Ukraine … with weapons, funding and humanitarian aid, until we have achieved our long-term goal, which must be to fortify Ukraine so that no one ever dares to attack you again,” he said. Ukrainian legislators.

The new military support, which will include electronic warfare equipment, a counter-battery radar system, GPS jamming equipment and thousands of night vision devices, is London’s latest defensive aid.

Last week, he announced his intention to send Ukrainian armored vehicles capable of firing missiles against invading Russian planes, in addition to previous contributions which included anti-tank missiles, air defense systems and tons of plastic explosives. .

The UK will also send heavy-lift unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) systems in the coming weeks “to provide logistical support to isolated forces”, Johnson’s Downing Street office said ahead of the speech.

Meanwhile, more than a dozen new specialist Toyota Landcruisers are heading to Ukraine to help protect civilian officials in the east of the country and evacuate people from frontline areas, he added. .

The Kremlin has criticized Western countries as they step up military hardware donations, saying they risk escalating the conflict and warning that Russia has the right to respond to any direct intervention.

On the diplomatic front, Britain is also reopening its embassy in Kyiv, with its main envoy there, Melinda Simmons, telling Britain’s Sunday newspaper ‘The Observer’ that she ‘feels like the right place to be’ .

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