Ukrainian officials reported more civilian casualties from Russian shelling in the country’s east and south on Saturday, as Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez began a visit to Kyiv as a show of continuing support from Madrid and the European Union.
In an address to Ukraine’s parliament that received several standing ovations, Sánchez said, “We’ll be with you as long as it takes.”
“I am here to express the firm determination of the European (Union) and Europe against the illegal and unjustified Russian aggression to Ukraine,” he said on the day that Spain took over the six-month rotating presidency of the 27-nation EU.
At a later news conference with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Sanchez announced Spain would deliver more heavy weaponry to Ukraine including four Leopard tanks and armoured personnel carriers, as well as a portable field hospital. He also said Spain will provide an additional 55 million euros to help with reconstruction needs.
Elsewhere in Ukraine, regional officials reported that at least three civilians were killed and 17 wounded by Russian shelling on Friday and overnight in the front-line eastern Donetsk region, where fierce battles are raging, Donetsk Gov. Pavlo Kyrylenko said.
The Ukrainian General Staff reported that fierce clashes continued in three areas in Donetsk where it said Russia has massed troops and attempted to advance. It named the outskirts of three cities – Bakhmut, Lyman and Marinka – as front-line hot spots.
Five people including a child were wounded on Friday and overnight in the Kherson region in the south, regional Gov. Oleksandr Prokudin said. Prokudin said that Russian forces launched 82 artillery, drone, mortar shell and rocket attacks on the province, which is cut in two by a stretch of the 1,500-kilometre front line and still reeling from flooding unleashed by the collapse earlier this month of a major Dnipro river dam.
In the northeastern Kharkiv region, Russian shelling over the previous day wounded a 57-year-old civilian man, said Gov. Oleh Syniehubov. In the Sumy region farther west, a teenage boy was hurt in a strike from across the Russian border, the local military administration reported.
Referring to possible peace talks, Sanchez said that “only Ukraine can set the terms and times for peace negotiations. Other countries and regions are proposing peace plans. Their involvement is much appreciated, but, at the same time, we can’t accept them entirely.
“This is a war of aggression, with an aggressor and a victim. They cannot be treated equally and ignoring the rules should in no way be rewarded. That is why we support President Zelenskyy’s peace formula,” Sánchez added.
Zelenskyy at the news conference expressed frustration about the lack of clarity over Western training for Ukrainian fighter pilots. He said Western allies have not yet set a timetable to train pilots on US-made F-16s despite their expressions of readiness. “I think that some partners are delaying this process, why they do this I have no idea,” he said.
He also renewed Ukraine’s claim that Russia is prepared to cause a potential nuclear catastrophe at the Moscow-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant as Ukraine continues to make steady advances along the front line.
“Russia is technically ready to provoke a local explosion at the station that could cause emission of dangerous substances in the air. We are clearly communicating, we discussed the need with our partners so everyone understands why Russia is doing this,” he said.
The introduction of F-16s to the war could give Ukraine a much-needed edge over Russia, which currently enjoys air superiority.