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3 killed as Ukrainian drone barrage hits 8 Russian regions


FILE - Ukrainian soldiers prepare to launch a Poseidon H10 middle-range drone near the city of Bakhmut, in Ukraine’s Donetsk region, March 26, 2024.
FILE - Ukrainian soldiers prepare to launch a Poseidon H10 middle-range drone near the city of Bakhmut, in Ukraine’s Donetsk region, March 26, 2024.

Ukraine pummeled eight Russian regions with dozens of long-range strike drones, targeting oil refineries and energy facilities inside Russia, setting on fire a fuel depot, and striking three power substations, a Ukrainian intelligence source in Kyiv told Reuters on Saturday.

"At least three electrical substations and a fuel storage base were hit, where fires ignited," the Ukrainian source said, citing social media videos showing fires burning at different locations.

The source said the facilities were targeted for supporting Russian military industrial production.

Russia’s defense ministry confirmed the overnight attacks and added that 50 of the drones were shot down, with 26 of them destroyed over Russia’s western Belgorod region bordering Ukraine.

During the barrage, a man and a woman were killed there, while later on, during shelling in the area, a pregnant woman lost her life, Belgorod Gov. Vyacheslav Gladkov wrote on social media.

Ten drones were shot over the Bryansk region, eight over the Kursk region, and two over Tula region, as well as one in each of the regions of Smolensk, Ryazan, Kaluga and Moscow, according to Russian authorities.

Ukraine’s strikes come as a response to an intensified Russian airstrike campaign that has devastated Ukraine's energy system and many of its cities in recent weeks.

Kyiv’s overnight drone attack was a joint operation conducted by Ukraine's SBU security service, the GUR military intelligence agency and the Special Operations Forces, the source said.

Kyiv is waging drone airstrikes to compensate for its battlefield disadvantage in weapons and troops against Russia, while waiting for more U.S. military aid, the Ukrainian source told Reuterrs.

US House passes Ukraine aid bill

Ukrainians are anxiously awaiting aid from the U.S. for Ukraine, and the U.S. House of Representatives on Saturday passed with broad bipartisan support a $95 billion legislative package providing security assistance to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan. It is expected to pass in the Senate before President Joe Biden signs it into law.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy expressed his gratitude Saturday, for the passage of the bill by the U.S. House of Representatives.

"I am grateful to the United States House of Representatives, both parties, and personally Speaker Mike Johnson for the decision that keeps history on the right track," he wrote on social platform X, formerly Twitter.

Zelenskyy added the $95 billion U.S. aid bill, about to be approved by the U.S. Senate "will keep the war from expanding, save thousands and thousands of lives, and help both of our nations to become stronger."

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Saturday that passage by the U.S. House of Representatives of a bill on aid to Ukraine would "further ruin" Ukraine and result in more deaths in the conflict.

Peskov also told Tass news agency that a provision in the legislation allowing the U.S. administration to confiscate seized Russian assets and transfer them to Ukraine for reconstruction would tarnish the image of the United States.

Russia, he added, would respond with measures in its own interests.
With the war in its third year since Moscow’s invasion of its neighbor in 2022, Russia is slowly advancing in eastern Ukraine.

Just this year, Ukraine had been attacked by almost 1,200 missiles, more than 1,500 drones and 8,500 guided bombs amid delays in Western military assistance, Zelenskyy said Friday.

Zelenskyy appeals to NATO

Zelenskyy appealed to NATO members Friday, to step up arms deliveries to Ukraine struggling with diminished munition while Russia has air advantage and larger ground forces.

“NATO must decide if it is Kyiv's ally,” Zelenskyy told a gathering of NATO defense ministers in Brussels via video link. "Our sky must become safe again," he added.

His appeal to Western partners to provide at least seven more air defense systems came hours after Russia barraged the country with deadly drones and missiles.

At least eight people, including two children, were killed in a Russian barrage on Ukraine's eastern Dnipropetrovsk region. But Ukraine said it had downed one of the long-range Russian bombers that launched the missiles for the first time.

Zelenskyy compared Western efforts to defend Israel to those toward Ukraine's defense against Russia and said more could be done to help Kyiv repel Russian airstrikes.

Ukraine could not defend itself without Western support, he told NATO ministers.
"It is obvious that now, while Russia has air advantage and can rely on its drone and rocket terror, our capabilities on the ground, unfortunately, are limited," he said.

Earlier Friday, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said the bloc had agreed to give Ukraine more weapons including air defenses.

"I expect new announcements on air defense capabilities for Ukraine soon," he added.
Ukraine has faced a surge in devastating Russian attacks on its cities. Earlier this week, a strike on the city of Chernihiv killed 18 people.

Earlier Friday, Zelenskyy said he had visited Ukrainian front-line troops and inspected new defensive lines in the war-battered Donetsk region.

He also said Russia had struck two food export terminals at the Black Sea port of Pivdennyi Friday.

This was "part of a deliberate Russian strategy to cause maximum damage to Ukraine and the countries that rely on Ukrainian agricultural goods,” he said.

VOA State Department Bureau Chief Nike Ching contributed to this report. Some information came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.

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