- Washington is expected to announce that it plans to send cluster munitions to Ukraine after months of hesitation. Ukraine and Russia have been using cluster munitions, but Ukraine has been running low on ammunition. Cluster munitions are banned by more than 100 countries.
- Russia fired cruise missiles at Lviv, in western Ukraine, killing at least six people in what Ukrainian officials said was the heaviest attack on civilian areas of the city since the Kremlin’s forces invaded Ukraine last year.
- Ahead of next week’s NATO summit in Lithuania, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called on NATO leaders to take concrete steps toward Ukrainian membership.
- President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is set to hold talks Friday with Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the latest leg of a tour to push Ukraine's bid to join NATO and secure more weapons from allies.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Friday reiterated his call for long-range weapons to conduct offensive and defensive operations against Russian forces that invaded his country.
Speaking Friday during a visit to the Czech Republic, Zelenskyy said Ukraine was talking about long-range weapons systems with many allies, including the United States.
"Without long-range weapons, it is difficult not only to carry out an offensive mission, but also, honestly, to conduct a defensive operation. It is very difficult. This means that you are defending your land and you cannot reach the appropriate distance to destroy your enemy, i.e. the enemy has a distant advantage,” he said.
Zelenskyy’s Prague visit is part of a foreign tour before a NATO summit next week, during which he is expected to urge the alliance to admit Ukraine as a member.
The European Union said Friday its member states have reached an agreement to spend $545 million to boost ammunition production for Ukraine and to restore the ammunition stocks of its members.
The Act in Support of Ammunition Production or ASAP is set to mainly focus on the production of artillery shells and missiles.
Ukrainian forces have advanced by more than a kilometer against Russian troops near the eastern city of Bakhmut, military spokesman Serhiy Cherevatyi told Ukrainian television Friday.
"The defense forces continue to hold the initiative there, putting pressure on the enemy, conducting assault operations, advancing along the northern and southern flanks," he said.
The Biden administration is considering sending cluster munitions to Ukraine to help it in its war against Russia, U.S. officials said, in a move that will likely anger human rights groups.
The controversial weapons are fired from a cannon and release dozens of “bomblets” across a wide area. They can cause harm long after the fighting has ended. Cluster munitions are banned by 123 countries because of the risk they pose to civilians but the United States, Ukraine and Russia have not banned them.
The cluster munitions are expected to be part of a new U.S. aid package to Ukraine that is to be announced Friday.
Provision of cluster munitions to Ukraine “is something that is under consideration,” Pentagon spokesperson Brigadier General Patrick Ryder said Thursday.
Ukraine and Russia are using their own cluster munitions on the battlefield. But Kyiv has been asking Washington to send cluster munitions because its forces are running low on ammunition. So far, the United States has resisted providing the cluster munitions because of the risk to civilians.
Now, though, U.S. officials reportedly believe cluster munitions would be useful in the fight against Russia. Laura Cooper, a deputy assistant secretary of defense, recently testified to Congress that these munitions would help Kyiv press through Russia’s dug-in positions.
U.S. law requires a presidential waiver to export cluster munitions if more than 1% of the bomblets they hold usually fail to explode. That figure is known as the “dud rate.”
“We have multiple variants … in our stock and the ones that we are considering providing would not include older variants with dud rates higher than 2.35%,” Ryder said.
“We would carefully be selecting rounds with lower dud rates” based on testing from 2020, he added.
A U.S. decision may be announced as soon as Friday, according to NPR.
Earlier Thursday, a Russian missile struck an apartment building in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, killing at least four people and injuring nine others.
Lviv Mayor Andriy Sadovyi said the missile also damaged about 60 apartments and 50 cars. Sadovyi described the attack as the largest against the city’s civilian infrastructure since Russia’s invasion began last year.
“There will definitely be a response to the enemy. A tangible one,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Telegram.
Lviv is near Ukraine’s border with Poland, far from the frontline areas in eastern and southern Ukraine that have been the focus of much of the recent fighting between Ukrainian and Russian forces.
In an interview with CNN broadcast Wednesday, Zelenskyy said he wanted to launch a counteroffensive earlier but that the timing was dependent on getting military aid from Ukraine’s U.S. and European partners.
Ukraine began the counteroffensive last month, aiming to reclaim territory occupied by Russia since the Russian invasion began in February 2022.
Ukrainian officials have sought ammunition and more advanced weapons, including air defense systems and fighter jets, in order to match up with Russia’s military capabilities.
“I wanted our counteroffensive to happen much earlier, because everyone understood that if the counteroffensive unfolds later, then a bigger part of our territory will be mined,” Zelenskyy told CNN. “We give our enemy the time and possibility to place more mines and prepare their defensive lines.”
He reiterated his case for Ukraine to receive F-16 fighter jets, saying having the planes is not about gaining an aerial advantage, but rather “being equal” to Russia’s forces.
Denmark said last week that training for Ukrainian pilots to fly F-16s had begun.
VOA national security correspondent Jeff Seldin contributed to this article. Some information for this story came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters
Jeff Seldin contributed to this report.