Ukraine war: Missile tests, German funding, and Jedi air raid warnings
Moscow: Ukraine has already deployed US long-range GLSDB rockets
The Russian defence ministry said on Tuesday it had shot down a long-range rocket, promised to Ukraine by the US.
"The anti-aircraft defence shot down 18 rockets of the Himars system and a GLSDB guided rocket," the ministry said in its daily statement, hinting the activity to be the first confirmation that the ammunition had been delivered to Kyiv.
The GLSDBs (for "Ground Launched Small Diameter Bomb" in English) are small-diameter, high-precision devices manufactured by the American Boeing and the Swedish Saab. They can fly up to 150 km and thus threaten Russian positions, in particular ammunition warehouses, far behind the front lines.
Ukraine has hammered home the need for such munitions to destroy Russian supply lines and thus overcome its shortage of men and ammunition in preparation for its announced counter-offensive to push back the Russian forces occupying large parts of southern and eastern Ukraine.
The United States finally announced on 3 February that it would provide Ukraine with GLSDBs, but the delivery schedule had not been announced, with some sources saying that several months were needed before they could be deployed on the ground.
The West has been reluctant to provide longer-range systems, fearing they could be used to strike Russian territory and provoke an escalation.
Kyiv, for its part, has repeatedly promised that it would only use them to attack targets in occupied territory.
Russian navy fires missiles in Sea of Japan
Moscow test-fired anti-ship missiles in the Sea of Japan, Russia’s Defense Ministry said Tuesday, with two boats launching a simulated missile attack on a mock enemy warship about 100 kilometres away.
The ministry said the target was successfully hit by two Moskit cruise missiles.
The Moskit, whose NATO reporting name is the SS-N-22 Sunburn, is a supersonic anti-ship cruise missile that has conventional and nuclear warhead capacity. The Soviet-built cruise missile is capable of flying at a speed three times the speed of sound and has a range of up to 250 kilometres.
The ministry said the exercise, which included other warships and naval aircraft, took place in the Peter the Great Gulf in the Sea of Japan but did not give more precise coordinates. The gulf borders the Russian Pacific Fleet headquarters at Fokino and is about 700 kilometres from Japan's northern Hokkaido island.
The Russian military has conducted regular drills across the country and Russian warships have continued maneuvers as the fighting in Ukraine has entered a second year -- exercises that were intended to train the troops and showcase the country's military capability.
The US Navy’s 7th Fleet did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Japan reacted calmly to the missile exercise, which was conducted near Vladivostok, rather than directly into the waters between the two countries.
Japanese Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihiko Isozaki told a news conference later Tuesday that Tokyo will continue to monitor Russia’s military operations, as it has been stepping up activity in the region.
Tokyo does not plan to lodge a protest to Russia over the missile exercise, said Tasuku Matsuki, Japanese Foreign Ministry official in charge of Russia, noting that its location — Peter the Great Bay — is considered Russian coast, though it is facing the water between the two countries.
“On the whole, Japan is concerned about Russia’s increasing military activities around the Japanese coasts and watching them with great interest,” Matsuki said.
He added that Russia has conducted missile drills in that area in the past and issued maritime advisories ahead of time.
Germany to vote on increasing military aid to Ukraine
The Bundestag's budget committee is due to adopt a significant increase in German military aid to Ukraine on Wednesday.
The parliamentarians are expected to vote on a total of 12 billion euros in aid, both in the form of arms deliveries directly to Kyiv and in the form of re-supplies to the German army, which has offloaded a large part of its stocks to Ukraine over the past year.
If these funds are voted through, German aid will jump from around €3 billion so far to around €15 billion.
The German Finance Ministry will present several proposals to the parliament on Wednesday morning.
Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022, Germany has been engaged in an ambitious rearmament policy.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz had promised a fund of €100 billion a few days after the Russian attack to boost the German military. But the promised funds have not yet been released and the German army continues to suffer from years of underinvestment.
Berlin, on the other hand, is one of the main contributors to military support in Kyiv. The German government confirmed on Monday the delivery to Ukraine of 18 Leopard 2 type 2A6 tanks, which the Ukrainian army has been insisting on.
Feel the Force: Hamill carries 'Star Wars' voice to Ukraine
“Attention. Air raid alert,” the voice says with a Jedi knight’s gravitas. “Proceed to the nearest shelter.”
It's a surreal moment in an already surreal war: the grave but calming baritone of actor Mark Hamill, Luke Skywalker of “Star Wars,” urging people to take cover whenever Russia unleashes another aerial bombardment on Ukraine.
The intrusion of Hollywood science-fiction fantasy into the grim daily realities of war in Ukraine is a consequence of Hamill's decision to lend his famous voice to “Air Alert” — a downloadable app linked to Ukraine's air defense system.
When air raid sirens start howling, the app also warns Ukrainians that Russian missiles, bombs and deadly exploding drones may be incoming.
“Don’t be careless," Hamill’s voice advises. “Your overconfidence is your weakness.”
The actor says he's admired — from afar, in California — how Ukraine has "shown such resilience ... under such terrible circumstances." Its fight against the Russian invasion, now in its second year, reminds him of the “Star Wars” saga, he says — of plucky rebels battling and ultimately defeating a vast, murderous empire. Voicing over the English-language version of the air-raid app and giving it his “Star Wars” touch was his way of helping out.
When the dangers from the skies pass, Hamill announces via the app that “the air alert is over." He then signs off with an uplifting: "May the Force be with you.”
Hamill is also raising funds to buy reconnaissance drones for Ukrainian forces on the front lines. He autographed “Star Wars”-themed posters that are being raffled off.
“Here I sit in the comfort of my own home when in Ukraine there are power outages and food shortages and people are really suffering," he said. “It motivates me to do as much as I can.”
Although the app also has a Ukrainian-language setting, voiced by a woman, some Ukrainians prefer to have Hamill breaking the bad news that yet another Russian bombardment might be imminent.