Russian Missiles Rain Down on Ukraine as West Pledges Enduring Support

KYIV—Russian forces struck targets in the Mykolaiv region of southern Ukraine on Wednesday and intensified attacks on fronts across the country as NATO members met in Madrid to plan a course of action against the challenge from Moscow.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told the NATO leaders his country needed more weapons and money to defend itself against Russia, warning that Moscow’s ambitions did not stop at Ukraine.

At the summit, President Joe Biden announced additional U.S. land, air, and sea deployments across Europe, including a permanent army headquarters in Poland, in response to threats from Russia.

The mayor of Mykolaiv city said a Russian missile strike killed at least three people in a residential building there, while Moscow said its forces had hit what it called a training base for foreign mercenaries in the region.

In the east, the governor of Luhansk Province said there was “fighting everywhere” in the battle around the hilltop city of Lysychansk, which Russian troops were trying to encircle.

The governor of Kryvyi Rih in central Ukraine said Russian shelling had increased there too in the past few days.

“Several villages have been wiped from the face of the earth,” Kryvyi Rih governor Oleksander Vilkul said.

The stepped-up attacks come as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s forces make slow but relentless progress in a war now in its fifth month.

Far from the fighting, leaders of NATO countries were meeting in the Spanish capital Madrid to thrash out policy in response to Russia’s actions.

Zelenskyy, in a video link-up from the capital Kyiv, demanded more weapons from the West and said Ukraine needed $5 billion per month for its defense and protection.

The new U.S. Army headquarters in Poland announced by Biden at the summit, with an accompanying battalion, would be the first permanent U.S. deployment on NATO’s eastern flank.

Biden’s plans also include sending extra warships to Spain, fighter jet squadrons to Britain, ground troops to Romania, air defense units to Germany and Italy, and a range of assets to the Baltics.

The Atlantic alliance would “defend every inch” of its territory: “We mean it when we say an attack against one is an attack against all,” he told reporters.

The NATO summit will also welcome membership applications from formerly neutral Sweden and Finland, which overcame objections from Turkey.

In Moscow, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said NATO’s expansion was “destabilising” and did not add to its members’ security.

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A smoke rises over remains of a building destroyed by a military strike, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, in Lysychansk, Luhansk region, Ukraine, on June 17, 2022. (Oleksandr Ratushniak/Reuters)

Eastern Front

Fighting also raged further east in Luhansk Province, a key battleground in Russia’s assault on the industrial heartland of the Donbass region.

“There is fighting everywhere. The enemy is trying to break through our defences,” Luhansk governor Serhiy Gaidai said on television.

The battle for Lysychansk in Luhansk follows the fall of Sievierodonetsk, its sister city across the Siverskyi Donets River on Saturday.

Its capture would expand Russian control of the Donbass, one of Moscow’s strategic objectives.

The Moscow-imposed military-civilian administration in Kherson region said it had begun preparations for a referendum on joining Russia, Russian state news agency TASS reported.

Kherson, a port city on the Black Sea, sits just northwest of the Russian-annexed Crimean peninsula.

By Pavel Polityuk