Feared Chechen special forces are fighting house-to-house in besieged Mariupol while ‘hundreds’ of women and children remain trapped in the rubble of a city theatre destroyed by Russian invaders.
Video said to have been released by pro-Putin Chechen warlord Ramzan Kadyrov shows heavily armed fighters from the region pounding a high-rise building in the bombed-out city during a fierce gunfight with Ukrainian soldiers.
The propaganda video then cuts before showing some of the Chechen fighters emerging from the building with children in their arms while supposedly ‘liberating’ civilians.
The footage emerged as hundreds of people were still feared trapped under the rubble of a theatre in the devastated city. Evacuees have also told of the ‘hell’ they have been subjected to at the hands of Vladimir Putin‘s men.
Serhiy Taruta, a Ukrainian politician, said that around 130 people had been rescued from the building but hundreds of others are unaccounted for – possibly buried under rubble in one part of the bomb shelter, and cannot be evacuated because rescue services have been destroyed by Russian troops.
‘No one understands. Services that are supposed to help are demolished, rescue and utility services… are physically destroyed. A lot of doctors have been killed. This means that all the survivors of the bombing will either die under the ruins of the theater, or have already died,’ he wrote on Facebook.
Ukraine war: The latest
- Russian forces destroy an aircraft repair plant near Lviv airport. The city is just 45 miles from the border with NATO member Poland
- President Biden will warn his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping of “costs” if Beijing helps Russia in its invasion of Ukraine in a call today
- Putin accuses Ukrainian authorities of stalling talks, but added that Moscow is ready to search for solutions as he speaks with German Chancellor Scholz
- Antony Blinken says he believes Russia is guilty of war crimes over attacks on Ukrainian civilians
- The European Union issues a statement accusing Moscow of “serious violations and war crimes”
- Russia cancels plans for a UN security vote on a “humanitarian” resolution over Ukraine, after allies fail to line up in support
- Russian troops and their separatist allies are fighting in the centre of Mariupol, Moscow says
- Britain’s broadcasting regulator revokes the licence of Russia’s state-funded television channel RT
- US House of Representatives votes to suspend Russia’s “most favoured nation” trade status, tightening the Western chokehold on Moscow’s economy
- Poland’s border guards say that more than two million refugees have crossed since fighting broke out
- Canada announces it is offering Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion temporary residence permit for up to three years
Dmytro Gurin, a Ukrainian MP from Mariupol, told the BBC that some people have managed to evacuate but that others are trapped in the shelter and rescuers are struggling to reach them because Russian troops continue to shell it. A rescue mission is underway, he insisted.
Meanwhile survivors of the siege who managed to flee described the city as ‘hell’, saying that people are being left to bleed or burn to death in the streets because doctors cannot reach them and hospitals have been destroyed, with the bodies covered by a thin layer of soil in makeshift burials.
Russia’s defence ministry said on Friday that its troops have now entered the city and are fighting in the centre, amid fears that it could soon fall into Putin’s hands after three weeks of shelling weakened the defences. If the city does fall, it will be the largest captured so-far – albeit at the cost of near-totally destroying it.
Svitlana Zlenko, who said she left the city with her son on Tuesday this week, described how she spent days sheltering in a school building – melting snow to cook pasta to eat while living in constant terror of Russian bombs which flew overhead ‘every day and every night’.
She described how a bomb hit the school last week, wounding a woman in the hip with a piece of shrapnel. ‘She was lying on the first floor of the high school all night and prayed for poison so that she would not feel pain,’ Svitlana said. ‘[She] was taken by the Red Cross within a day, I pray to God she is well.’
She added: ‘There is no food, no medicine, if there is no snow with such urban fights, people will not be able to go out to get water, people have no water left. Pharmacies, grocery stores – everything is robbed or burned.
‘The dead are not taken out. Police recommend to the relatives of those who died of a natural death, to open the windows and lay the bodies on the balcony. I know you think you understand, but you will never understand unless you were there. I pray that this will not happen again in any of the cities of Ukraine, or of the world.’
Despite the pleas, shelling was well underway in other Ukrainian cities on Friday – with Lviv, in the west of the country, the capital Kyiv, and Kharkiv, in the east, coming under fire.
The war launched by Russian President Vladimir Putin ground into its fourth week as his troops have failed to take Kyiv – a major objective in their hopes of forcing a settlement or dictating the country’s future political alignments.
Feared Chechen special forces are fighting house-to-house in besieged Mariupol while ‘hundreds’ of women and children remain trapped in the rubble of a city theatre destroyed by Russian invaders
Video released by pro-Putin Chechen warlord Ramzan Kadyrov shows heavily armed fighters from the region pounding a high-rise building in the bombed-out city during a fierce gunfight with Ukrainian soldiers
The propaganda video then cuts before showing some of the Chechen fighters emerging from the building with children in their arms while supposedly ‘liberating’ civilians
Hundreds of people are feared to be trapped in the underground bomb shelters of Mariupol theatre which was destroyed by a Russian airstrike on Wednesday evening
Rescuers are trying to dig through the rubble to get to the bomb shelters, but the city’s mayor warns the building is still being shelled meaning work is slow and ‘very, very dangerous’
Up to 1,200 people are thought to have been using the theatre as a shelter when Russian bombs struck and completely destroyed it – despite signs saying ‘children’ being clearly visible outside
A woman and her baby are pictured fleeing the city of Mariupol along a humanitarian corridor that was opened on Thursday, though previous attempts have failed after Russians shelled the routes
Local residents seeking refuge in the basement of a building are seen in the besieged southern port city of Mariupol
A woman weeps after seeing the ruins of her destroyed block of flat in Mariupol, which is under bombardment by Russia
Women seek refuge in the basement of a building in Mariupol, which has been under Russian bombardment for weeks
A heavily bombed building is seen in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, after being destroyed by Russian shelling of the city
Evacuees fleeing Ukraine-Russia conflict sit in a damaged car as they wait in a line to leave the besieged port city of Mariupol
Russia’s ground attacks have stalled on almost all fronts, with limited gains happening in the east, as Putin’s generals increasingly launch long-range strikes on the west of the country in an attempt to weaken Kyiv’s war effort
‘Horror’ in Mariupol: A survivor’s account
Svitlana Zlenko, who said she left the city with her son on Tuesday this week:
‘Yesterday we left Mariupol under the shelling at our own risk, stayed the night in the field, in the gray zone, did not make it to the curfew, there was frost outside, thank God we are alive. They are alive to scream that everyone who stayed in Mariupol needs help. This is not a city of hero, this is a city of fear, death and horror.
!!!!!! We did not have a humanitarian convoy, no one took us out, there is no city administration in the city, we ran after cars under shelling, united into columns, glued the inscriptions children on the cars. I personally put my own son in the car to the sound of a flying shell in the next yard. No one saved us, we saved ourselves and God.
There is no connection in the city, no water, gas, ambulance, people with torn limbs bleed in the yards and no help, and these are peaceful people, our acquaintances and relatives. The dead are just caught on the spot, and the relatives can’t find them later. Most often, this happens when searching for water, queues at wells or while cooking soup on a fire.
!!!! Yes, we were collecting snow, melting it on a campfire and cooking pasta. My family was in the refuge of high school number two, three days ago a shell flew there, knocked out part of the windows, a woman in her hip was wounded with a scint, she was lying on the first floor of the high school all night and prayed to give her poison so that she would not feel pain, there is no one to take her to the hospital. Every day and every night there are fireworks, whistles, shaking walls and the horror of “where will it fly”
The survivor part of the 3rd city hospital works heroically, they are operating, they are saving. this woman was taken by a red cross within a day, may God grant her all is well. Two shells flew into my entrance, two into my yard, and the same man ripped off his leg with the same shell.
My mother Angela and three brothers Roman (16 years old), Vasya (11 years old) Vladislav stayed in the city center for 9 years, at home on the fifth floor. Mother-in-law Lyubov and mother-in-law Anatoly on the ninth floor, opposite the Moscow State University, where the houses to the 9th floor are cut with shackles.
There are almost no shelters in the city, there are not enough, no bunkers with ventilation, at best ground floors, my mom’s house has no one. People need to be taken out, women, children, elderly people, give them buses, green corridor, make an agreement!! I pray for the loved ones, every Mariupolian and Ukrainian soldier. The enemy came to us and left us no choice, but there is nothing more valuable than human life. It needs to end!!!!!!
No food, no medicine, if there is no snow with such urban fights, people will not be able to go out of water, people have no water left. Pharmacies, grocery stores – everything is robbed or burned, the dead are not taken out, the police recommends to the relatives of those who died of a natural death, to open the windows and lay the bodies on the balcony, and then take them to the house of prayer.
I know you think you understand, but you will never understand unless you were there. Now I can hear the sound of sirens and I’m not afraid because in Mariupol there was no power for 16 days and when planes were dropping bombs on us, we couldn’t even know it. I beg everyone to stop this!!!!!! If tanks protect the city standing in front of residential houses with people who then burn, then they are not protecting people. I do not understand war strategies, I pray with all my heart for Ukraine, but I do not understand why they destroy my relatives and my city.
I don’t know what will happen next, but I pray that this will not happen again in any of the cities of Ukraine and the world, and with no family and mother. A girl who gave birth to a baby in the hospital, where a shell flew in, pregnant, died in the same hospital, failed to give life, mother shaking in fear, covering her son in the hallway of each entrance to the sound of shaking windows, walls and flying shell, old man and, left without a chance to survive, wounded civilians, dying in the streets fighting.
They show you how houses burn, but they don’t show you how people burn. I need to burn myself to make you believe this shouldn’t continue!!!!??? I beg you to stop this. And let your heart choose life
This 21 day changed everyone, everything changed, so much now doesn’t matter and costs nothing, only if everyone left in the Mariupol hell wouldn’t shake in fear and horror
Praying for the people of Mariupol.’
Missiles and shelling struck the edges of Kyiv as well as Lviv, close to Ukraine’s western border with NATO countries such as Poland.
Late Thursday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his nighttime video address to the nation that he is thankful to U.S. President Joe Biden for additional military aid but won’t say specifically what the new package includes because he doesn’t want to tip off Russia.
Foreign ministers of the Group of Seven leading economies meanwhile said in a joint statement that Russian President Vladimir Putin is conducting an ‘unprovoked and shameful war.’
The fighting has led more than 3 million people to flee Ukraine, the U.N. estimates. The death toll remains unknown, though Ukraine has said thousands of civilians have died.
The Ukrainian air force’s western command said that six missiles were launched at Lviv from the Black Sea, but that two of them were shot down.
The city’s mayor, Andriy Sadovyi, said the missiles hit a facility for repairing military aircraft near Lviv’s international airport, also damaging a bus repair facility. No casualties were immediately reported. The facility had suspended work ahead of the attack, the mayor said on the Telegram messaging app.
Early morning barrages also hit a residential building in the Podil neighborhood of Kyiv, killing at least one person, according to emergency services, who said 98 people were evacuated from the building. Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko said 19 were wounded in the shelling, just north of downtown Kyiv.
Two other people were killed when strikes hit residential and administrative buildings in the eastern city of Kramatorsk, according to the regional governor, Pavlo Kyrylenko.
Civilian casualties have been mounting. The United Nations says that so far it has recorded 780 killed and 1,252 injured, although it estimates actual casualties are much higher. It says that most of the civilian casualties were due to explosive weapons with a wide impact area, such as heavy artillery and multiple-launch rocket systems as well as missile and air strikes.
Ukrainian officials say thousands of civilians have been killed.
The World Health Organization has verified 43 attacks on hospitals and health facilities, with 12 people killed and 34 injured, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told the United Nations Security Council in a virtual briefing Thursday.
The besieged southern city of Mariupol has borne much of the bombardment. There, rescuers continue to search for survivors of a Russian airstrike on a theater where hundreds of people were sheltering, local officials said.
With communications disrupted across the city and movement difficult because of shelling and other fighting, there were conflicting reports on whether anyone had emerged from the rubble.
Video and photos provided by the Ukrainian military showed that the building had been reduced to a roofless shell, with some exterior walls collapsed. Petro Andrushchenko, an official with the mayor’s office, said the building had a relatively modern basement bomb shelter designed to withstand airstrikes.
Russia’s military denied bombing the theater or anyplace else in Mariupol on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Britain’s Defense Ministry said Thursday that Russia’s invasion ‘has largely stalled on all fronts’ amid stiff Ukrainian resistance. It said Russian forces have made ‘minimal progress’ on land, sea or air in recent days, and are suffering heavy losses.
Ukrainian forces are using inexpensive Turkish-made drones to carry out lethal attacks on the Russian invaders.
The United Nations political chief, Undersecretary-General Rosemary DiCarlo, also called for an investigation into civilian casualties, reminding the UN Security Council that international humanitarian law bans direct attacks on civilians.
She said many of the daily attacks battering Ukrainian cities ‘are reportedly indiscriminate’ and involve the use of ‘explosive weapons with a wide impact area’.
Ms DiCarlo said the devastation in Mariupol and Kharkiv ‘raises grave fears about the fate of millions of residents of Kyiv and other cities facing intensifying attacks’.
In Mariupol, hundreds of civilians were said to have taken shelter in a grand, columned theatre in the city’s centre when it was hit on Wednesday by a Russian airstrike.
More than a day later, there were no reports of deaths and conflicting reports on whether anyone had emerged from the rubble.
Communications are disrupted across the city and movement is difficult because of shelling and other fighting.
A Ukrainian civilian, wounded by flying glass from a Russian airstrike, evacuates from an apartment in Kyiv, Ukraine
A man walks past a damaged residential building in the aftermath of a shelling in the Podilskyi district of Kyiv
A man carrying a dog speaks with a member of the Ukrainian military next to cars damaged by shelling in Kyiv
A woman who was injured at the site of a residential district of Kyiv after it was hit by shelling, touches her head, as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues, in Kyiv
A person looks at a building damaged by shelling in a residential district of Kyiv
A firefighter works at the site damaged by shelling in a residential district of Kyiv
A woman cleans glass from the front of a residential apartment complex that was heavily damaged by a Russian attack
A view of a destroyed children’s preschool in a residential district of Kyiv after it was hit by shelling, amid Russia’s invasion
A view of a destroyed children’s preschool in a residential district of Kyiv
Satellite imagery on Monday from Maxar Technologies showed huge white letters on the pavement outside the theatre spelling out ‘CHILDREN’ in Russian – ‘DETI’ – to alert warplanes to the vulnerable people hiding inside.
‘We hope and we think that some people who stayed in the shelter under the theatre could survive,’ Petro Andrushchenko, an official with the mayor’s office, told The Associated Press.
He said the building had a relatively modern basement bomb shelter designed to withstand airstrikes. Other officials said earlier that some people had got out.
Video and photos provided by the Ukrainian military showed that the at least three-storey building had been reduced to a roofless shell, with some exterior walls collapsed.
Across the city, snow flurries fell around the skeletons of burned, windowless and shrapnel-scarred apartment buildings as smoke rose above the skyline.
‘We are trying to survive somehow,’ said one Mariupol resident, who gave only her first name, Elena. ‘My child is hungry. I don’t know what to give him to eat.’
She had been trying to call her mother, who was in a town 50 miles away. ‘I can’t tell her I am alive, you understand. There is no connection, just nothing,’ she said.
Cars, some with the ‘Z’ symbol of the Russian invasion force in their windows, drove past stacks of ammunition boxes and artillery shells in a neighbourhood controlled by Russian-backed separatists.
Russia’s military denied bombing the theatre or anyplace else in Mariupol on Wednesday.
In Chernihiv, at least 53 people were brought to morgues over 24 hours, killed amid heavy Russian air attacks and ground fire, the local governor, Viacheslav Chaus, told Ukrainian TV on Thursday.
Ukraine’s emergency services said a mother, father and three of their children, including three-year-old twins, were killed when a Chernihiv hostel was shelled. Civilians were hiding in basements and shelters across the embattled city of 280,000.
‘The city has never known such nightmarish, colossal losses and destruction,’ Mr Chaus said.
A residential building damaged by shelling, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, is seen in Kharkiv, Ukraine
Rescuers work on remains of a residential building damaged by shelling, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, in Kharkiv
Rescuers work on remains of a residential building damaged by shelling, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, in Kharkiv
A view shows a building of a hospital damaged by shelling as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, in Sievierodonetsk
Smoke rises from the ruins of a building in Sievierodonetsk, in the Ukrainian-held part of eastern Donetsk region, where fighting with Moscow-backed rebel forces is ongoing
A man with a cat evacuates from a building damaged by shelling, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues in Kyiv
The World Health Organisation said it has verified 43 attacks on hospitals and health facilities, with 12 people killed and 34 injured.
In remarks early on Friday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he was thankful to US President Joe Biden for additional military aid, but he would not get into specifics about the new package, saying he did not want Russia to know what to expect.
He said when the invasion began on February 24, Russia expected to find Ukraine much as it did in 2014, when Russia seized Crimea without a fight and backed separatists as they took control of the eastern Donbas region.
Instead, he said, Ukraine had much stronger defences than expected, and Russia ‘didn’t know what we had for defence or how we prepared to meet the blow’.
In a joint statement, the foreign ministers of the Group of Seven leading economies accused Mr Putin of conducting an ‘unprovoked and shameful war’, and called on Russia to comply with the International Court of Justice’s order to stop its attack and withdraw its forces.
Both Ukraine and Russia this week reported some progress in negotiations. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Thursday that some negotiators were breaking into working groups.
Mr Zelensky said he would not reveal Ukraine’s negotiating tactics.
‘Working more in silence than on television, radio or on Facebook,’ Mr Zelensky said. ‘I consider it the right way.’
While details of Thursday’s talks were unknown, an official in Mr Zelensky’s office told the AP that on Wednesday, the main subject discussed was whether Russian troops would remain in separatist regions in eastern Ukraine after the war and where the borders would be.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive talks, said Ukraine was insisting on the inclusion of one or more Western nuclear powers in the negotiations and on legally binding security guarantees for Ukraine.
In exchange, the official said, Ukraine was ready to discuss a neutral military status.
Russia has demanded that Nato pledge never to admit Ukraine to the alliance or station forces there.
The fighting has led more than three million people to flee Ukraine, the UN estimates. The death toll remains unknown, though Ukraine has said thousands of civilians have died.
Ukraine is ‘humiliating’ Russia on the battlefield: New video shows Putin’s troops cowering under hail of fire in MORE inept tactics from ‘unprepared’ army
Russian invaders were ambushed by Ukrainian soldiers in another display of tactical humiliation for Vladimir Putin‘s army.
Footage filmed at the start of the war but only recently seen for the first time showed Russian soldiers cowering behind tanks and trees at the side of a road as bullets rained down on them.
Moscow has suffered multiple defeats because of ‘inept’ tactics that have baffled military experts.
It came as a British military expert said Ukraine was ‘humiliating’ Russia and ‘wiping the floor with them in terms of world opinion’.
Russian troops were ambushed at the start of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, on February 24
Soldiers were seen hiding behind tanks marked with a ‘V’ symbol as Ukrainian bullets rained down on them
It was yet another show of inept Russian tactics that has plagued Putin’s invasion of Ukraine
Prof Michael Clarke, the former chief of defence and security think tank the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), said the Russians were ‘making almost every tactical mistake it is possible to make’.
‘They look like forces that were completely unprepared, that hadn’t thought through what a major campaign might look like,’ he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
He said: ‘The Ukrainians are stalling the Russian advance in all areas and even operating now quite effective counter attacks.
‘The Russians are losing a lot of equipment and troops.’
Meanwhile, a British Army veteran told MailOnline: ‘What you see in [the video] is contact right, so they’re all piling out of a vehicle, you can see on camera that some soldiers are squatting behind tyres and are grouped in.
‘This is what we’d call a “snap ambush”, so an unexpected ambush from single direction.
‘What the Ukrainian army have probably done is set up a kill zone.
‘It could be the Ukrainians have just decided to take pot-shots, but what’s more likely is they’ve got intel that vehicles are going up road and they’ve planned an area where they’re going to engage them.
‘You try to make an area where the enemy is going to struggle to get out of, in this case there are banks to the left and right so the Russians are stuck on the road
‘Russians are maybe getting out of their vehicles because they’re scared of anti-tank weapons the Ukrainians have.
Advanced Western weaponry and tactics are helping the Ukrainian army to inflict heavy losses on the Russian army despite their inferior numbers, military experts revealed today
Pictured: Analysis by the Austrian military’s R&D department demonstrated the column was part of a larger Russian Battle Tactical Group (BTG). The analysis highlighted different companies within the unit as it came under heavy artillery fire. The analysis showed that the tank column was comprised of Russian BMP-1s (Soviet amphibious landing vehicles), soviet-era T-72 tanks, BTR-82 armoured personnel carriers and a TOS-1 Buratino – the thermobaric launcher. All companies were squeezed into a tight corridor making them easy targets for Ukrainian artillery
‘There isn’t a lot of commands from corporals or sergeants.
‘You’d expect the first people out of the vehicles to be shouting locations so other soldiers know where they’re being contacted from and where to return fire.
‘They’re not going forward, sometimes you do that because there’s going to be IEDs or something like that to make the situation to worse – but they’re not going backwards either.
‘Grouping together isn’t something you’d normally do. What you’d do is define where fire is coming from and spread yourself out in a line to make it harder for incoming fire to group against
‘If I was them, I would have lined up men along the ditch to the right, then you can start shooting back.
‘Nobody seems like they know what they’re doing.It looks like a game of paintball. They seem lost.
‘Could be that they’re young, could be that they’re old. Could be that they’re scared.’
Which weapons are Ukrainian soldiers using against Russia?
Javelin and NLAW anti-tank missiles
Cost: £130,000 each (Javelin missile), £35,000 each (NLAW)
Range: 18,000 ft (Javelin) and 3,300 ft (NLAW)
Warhead: 19 lb highly explosive warhead (Javelin), 27 lb HEAT warhead (NLAW)
How many has Ukraine received? 300 Javelins from the US and unknown number from UK and Estonia, at least 2,000 NLAWS
Many of the startling images of Russian tanks destroyed and burned out on Ukrainian roads are the result of one weapon – the ‘life giving’ Javelin.
These compact, shoulder-mounted missile launchers provided by Western countries including the UK and US have become a symbol of Ukraine’s defiant resistance to Russia’s invasion and are seen as the best way for the West to contribute without entering direct conflict.
Capable of piercing the most sophisticated armour, deliveries of Javelins have massively stepped since the Kremlin launched its invasion on February 24.
According to a senior US official, the Ukrainians have already received some 17,000 anti-tank weapons from various Western countries, including several hundred Javelin launchers.
Bayraktar TB2 drones
Cost: Around £3.7million ($5 million) each
Range: 150 km with 300-litre fuel capacity
Payload: 330 lb of precision-guided munitions
How many has Ukraine received? Several batches from Turkey said to total around 20, but official figure unknown
Ukraine’s air force has been using Turkish-made drones to carry out pop-up attacks with a lethal effectiveness that has surprised Western military experts.
The Bayraktar TB2 unmanned aerial vehicles, which carry lightweight, laser-guided bombs, normally excel in low-tech conflicts, and Turkey has over the years sold around 20 to Ukraine.
Stinger surface-to-air missiles
Cost: £97,000 ($130,000) per unit
Range: 15,000 ft with infrared homing
Warhead: Highly explosive 2.25 lb warhead
How many has Ukraine received? Unknown quantity from Latvia and Lithuania
Defence analysts have said one of Russia’s costliest mistakes is its lack of air superiority over Ukraine three weeks into the conflict and that this fails to reflect the tactics used by President Putin in his aerial bombardments of Syria and Chechnya.
Instead of sweeping air raids by Russian jets, the skies are being filled by surface-to-air missiles deployed by Ukrainians to pick away at the invading air force, one fighter at a time.
A file photo showing troops using a Stinger missile using Man-Portable Air Defense Systems (MANPADs) off the coast of Crete, Greece in November 2017
Soldiers have been armed with more Western weapons that give them the ability to shoot down Russian aircraft and cruise missiles at relatively close quarters.
The Stinger missile, which sits on the operator’s shoulder like the Javelin, was first developed in the US in 1981 and bears many of the same compact and portable benefits that help with ambush tactics.
Deployed to key frontline battle areas over the last few weeks, verified footage has shown surface-to-air missiles downing a Russian Su-25 fighter in Kharkiv, and a helicopter bursting into flames in a field near Kyiv.
S-300 surface-to-air missiles
Cost: £87million ($115 million) per system, £760,000 ($1million) per rocket
Range: 93 miles
Warhead: Highly explosive 315 lb fragmentation warhead
How many has Ukraine received? Unknown quantity from Slovakia
While Ukraine has been effective at knocking out Russia’s air power from close quarters, officials in Washington are arranging for it to acquire systems that can strike attacking aircraft much further away.
According to a military source, the systems are the Soviet/Russian-made S-300, which like the US-made Patriot system, is a fully automated, ground-based radar-and-missile launcher unit that can detect, track and fire at multiple incoming aerial threats at long distances.
Ukrainians already know how to operate the S-300, and the United States and a number of NATO countries possess the systems or components for them to supply Ukraine.
Slovakia, one of three NATO allies that have the S-300 missile defense system, have preliminarily agreed to provide the defence system but officials want assurances that the systems will be replaced immediately.
S-300s would be one of the most dangerous and deadly weapons in the Ukrainian arsenal.
It works via a long-range surveillance radar system tracking objects over a range of 300km and relaying information to a command vehicle which chooses a target.
Within five minutes of stopping, a separate launch vehicle can be prepared to launch up to 12 missiles simultaneously, engaging as many as six targets.