Russian missile strike destroys Nato-supplied howitzers in Ukraine

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Ukrainian servicemen fire a French self-propelled 155 mm/52-calibre gun towards Russian positions, as fierce fighting continues in Donbas - Aris Messinis/AFP via Getty Images
Ukrainian servicemen fire a French self-propelled 155 mm/52-calibre gun towards Russian positions, as fierce fighting continues in Donbas - Aris Messinis/AFP via Getty Images

Russia claims to have destroyed a large quantity of Nato-supplied weapons kept at a base in western Ukraine, as the head of the Western alliance said there was an “urgent need” to speed up arms deliveries.

The Russian defence ministry said that high-precision, long-range missiles had destroyed “an ammunition depot of foreign weapons transferred to Ukraine by Nato countries, including 155-mm M777 howitzers” near the town of Zolochiv, in the Lviv region.

The howitzers are among the weapons the Ukrainians have been requesting from Western countries as they face an onslaught of Russian artillery in the eastern Donbas region.

The defence ministry also said it had destroyed Western-supplied military materiel in eastern Ukraine and had struck an air base near Mykolaiv, in southern Ukraine.

It claimed to have killed 300 Ukrainian soldiers in the air strikes, but that figure could not be independently verified.

Ukrainian servicemen using a 155-mm M777 howitzer. A number of the machines have reportedly been destroyed in a Russian strike - Reuters/Gleb Garanich
Ukrainian servicemen using a 155-mm M777 howitzer. A number of the machines have reportedly been destroyed in a Russian strike - Reuters/Gleb Garanich

Jens Stoltenberg, the head of Nato, said there was an "urgent need" to step up arms deliveries to Ukraine, but warned that it took time to adapt Kyiv's forces to the latest generation of heavy weapons.

About 50 alliance members and partners are meeting in Brussels to discuss Ukraine's desperate pleas for more hardware, as it tries to resist Russian attacks in the east.

“Ukraine is really in a very critical situation and therefore, it's an urgent need to step up,” Mr Stoltenberg said.

The West has poured major supplies of arms into Ukraine to help it fight the Kremlin, but Kyiv complains it has only received a fraction of what it needs.

Mr Stoltenberg said that the allies had moved from sending older equipment to delivering "more long range, more advanced air defence systems, more advanced artillery, more heavy weapons”.

He added: "So it is also a fact that when we now are actually starting the transition from Soviet-era weapons to more modern Nato weapons, there will also be some time needed to just make the Ukrainians ready to use and operate these systems."

Meanwhile Ben Wallace, the Defence Secretary, said the UK is considering sending additional anti-ship missiles to Ukraine, beyond the weapons it has already promised.

The delivery of guided multi-launch rocket systems that Britain has promised to Ukraine would be "imminent", he said.

“We are obviously exploring anti-ship capabilities greater than we already put, in the Brimstone family of weapons systems," he said during a visit to Oslo.

It was crucial to train Ukrainian forces to replace the soldiers who are being killed in Donbas, he said.

Mr Wallace said: “The Ukrainian forces in the east of the country ... some of them have been on that front for 90 days, they are exhausted, they are often, in artillery terms, outnumbered in very high ratios. It is important to help Ukraine with its ability to replace people on the frontline.”

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