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Russia bombards Ukraine as allies promise more arms

Russia has launched missile strikes across Ukraine after Western allies pledged to increase military aid to the Ukrainian armed forces to support a planned counter-offensive.

Ukrainian officials said air defences in the south downed eight Kalibr missiles fired from a ship in the Black Sea, but other missiles struck northern and western Ukraine as well as the central regions of Dnipropetrovsk and Kirovograd.

One missile struck an industrial site in the western city of Lviv, causing a fire which was eventually brought under control.

Bolstered by tens of thousands of reservists drafted in December, Russia has intensified ground attacks across southern and eastern Ukraine in recent weeks.

A major new offensive is widely expected as the first anniversary of its February 24 invasion nears.

“The enemy’s offensive continues in the east, (with) round-the-clock attacks,” Ukrainian deputy Defence Minister Hanna Malyar said on Wednesday.

“The situation is tense. But our fighters are not allowing the enemy to achieve their goals and are inflicting very serious losses,” she wrote on the Telegram messaging app.

Earlier on Wednesday, Russia’s Defence Ministry said Ukrainian forces had retreated in the face of Russian operations in the Luhansk region, although it gave no details and Reuters was not able to verify this and other battlefield reports.

ABC News notes that Ukraine’s Luhansk and Donetsk regions make up the Donbas, Ukraine’s industrial heartland, now partially occupied by Russia, which wants full control.

In Kyiv, the capital’s military administration said six Russian balloons that may have contained reconnaissance equipment were shot down after air raid sirens blared.

Russia did not immediately comment.

Meanwhile, members of the US-led North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) have begun ramping up production of artillery munitions to help Ukraine in the face of Moscow’s renewed offensives.

Writing by Tony Okerafor