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UKRAINE UPDATE: 28 MARCH 2024

Russian guided bomb strikes Kharkiv; US turns to Turkey to boost allied munition aid for Kyiv

Russian guided bomb strikes Kharkiv; US turns to Turkey to boost allied munition aid for Kyiv
A woman holds a picture rescued from the destroyed art academy after a Russian missile attack on 25 March 2024 in Kyiv, Ukraine. (Photo: Tanya Dzafarowa / Suspilne Ukraine / JSC "UA:PBC” / Global Images Ukraine via Getty Images)

Ukrainian authorities said the northeastern city of Kharkiv was hit by a guided bomb, killing at least one person and injuring others in the first such strike on the city since the war began more than two years ago.

The US is in talks to ramp up purchases of explosives from Turkey to boost production of artillery shells as allies scramble to ship badly needed ammunition to Ukraine.

Ukraine is seeking to reassure European natural gas traders that it’s still safe to store the fuel in the country’s vast underground facilities after a Russian attack.

Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski said his government had doubled its commitment to a Czech-led initiative to buy hundreds of thousands of artillery rounds for Ukraine. 

Ukraine’s second-largest city hit by guided bomb 

Ukrainian authorities said the northeastern city of Kharkiv was hit by a guided bomb, killing at least one person and injuring others in the first such strike on the city since the war began more than two years ago.

The attack on a block of apartment buildings in Ukraine’s second-largest city injured at least 19 people, regional Governor Oleh Synehubov said on Telegram.  

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who was on a frontline tour in the nearby Sumy region along the Russian border, called for additional Patriot missile batteries for air defence.

“There are no rational explanations for why Patriots, which are plentiful around the world, are still not covering the skies of Kharkiv and other cities and communities under attack by Russian terrorists,” Zelensky said. 

Russian forces have been increasingly deploying guided bombs dropped from fighter jets to pound Ukrainian positions along the front line, effectively obliterating parts of cities like Avdiivka, which the Kremlin’s military seized this year, to whittle down defences.  

Read more: Power outages persist in Ukraine’s Kharkiv after Russian strikes

In the early stage of the invasion launched in February 2022, Kremlin forces approached Kharkiv, but were unable to seize it. The city, whose prewar population was more than one million, still faced water, heating and power shortages at the beginning of the week after a missile barrage on Friday. 

After a set of massive missile barrages last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s military pivoted to more targeted strikes with ballistic missiles, which are harder to shoot down. The precision weapon used in Kharkiv was a free-falling bomb converted with a guidance system and glide kit, functioning at a fraction of the cost of producing missiles. 

Earlier on Wednesday, Ukrainian authorities said Russia targeted the southern city of Mykolayiv in a missile attack, probing the country’s capability to down high-speed ballistic targets. At least six people were injured in the attack on the city near the Black Sea, regional governor Vitaliy Kim said on Telegram. 

On Monday, Kyiv was attacked with two ballistic missiles whose debris inflicted significant damage, despite the ability of air-defense systems to intercept them. Mykolayiv, a Dnipro River delta city, has been a target of regular Russian attacks since the start of the invasion in 2022.

US turns to Turkey for explosives as war in Ukraine saps supply

The US is in talks to ramp up purchases of explosives from Turkey to boost production of artillery shells as allies scramble to ship badly needed ammunition to Ukraine.

Turkish supplies of trinitrotoluene, known as TNT, and nitroguanidine, which is used as a propellant, would be crucial in the production of Nato-standard 155mm calibre ammunition — potentially tripling production, according to officials familiar with the discussions. Turkey is already on track to becoming the biggest seller of the artillery shells to the US as early as this year.

Russia’s two-year war in Ukraine has triggered a surge in global demand for ammunition, with Western allies pushing to supply Kyiv even as they replenish their own depleted stocks. The demand spike has led to a backlog in global orders and put a strain on defence supply chains, particularly on components such as TNT, the officials said on condition of anonymity.

Production lines of Turkish defence firm Repkon are expected to produce some 30% of all US-made 155mm artillery shells by 2025, the people said. In addition, the Defense Department purchased 116,000 rounds of battle-ready ammunition from Turkey’s Arca Defense for delivery this year, with further purchases expected soon for delivery next year, the people added. 

The US and European efforts are part of a race to catch up with Moscow, whose war machine has put it in a position to produce or procure — according to some estimates — four million rounds this year, including shipments from North Korea. By contrast, the European Union expects to triple its production of artillery shells this year to around 1.4 million units.

Ukraine tries to reassure gas traders its storage sites are safe

Ukraine is seeking to reassure European natural gas traders that it’s still safe to store the fuel in the country’s vast underground facilities after a Russian attack.

The nation expects as much as four billion cubic metres of gas will be brought in during the summer months, more than last year, according to Roman Maliutin, chief executive officer of gas storage operator Ukrtransgaz. European nations typically use the season to build up stockpiles ahead of the next heating period, though might be more reluctant after a strike on a facility in western Ukraine on Sunday.

“I would like to stress that damages do not affect our capabilities for gas injection into underground gas storage,” Maliutin said in response to questions from Bloomberg News.

Read More: Ukraine says Russia barrage aimed at underground gas storage

Traders have been cautious about storing gas in Ukraine since Moscow unleashed its war in February 2022. Still, the storage operator now had more than 1,000 contracts, of which 168 were with non-resident companies, he said.

“Sunday’s attack will enhance this caution. However, we have enough capacity reserve and are ready to react,” Maliutin said.

Ukrtransgaz is offering as much as 10 billion cubic metres to foreign traders, or a third of Ukraine’s total storage capacity. Traders have been increasingly looking at Ukraine as a place to put excess gas when Europe’s storage sites are full, and last year injected 2.5 billion cubic metres there. 

Poland to double commitment to Czech-led ammunition initiative

Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski said his government had doubled its commitment to a Czech-led initiative to buy hundreds of thousands of artillery rounds for Ukraine. 

Speaking to reporters in Riga alongside his Latvian counterpart, Krisjanis Karins, Sikorski declined to give a specific funding volume. 

The Czech plan involves procuring ammunition outside the European Union and delivering 800,000 shells to the Ukrainian front as Kyiv struggles to fend off a fresh Russian advance. Even as EU leaders welcomed the initiative, some of the bloc’s largest countries have yet to make concrete pledges.

Oman becoming hotspot for ship-to-ship transfers of Russian oil

The waters off Oman are emerging as a hotspot for ship-to-ship transfers of Russian oil heading to India, as the US steps up scrutiny of the flows.

New Discovery was the latest tanker to transfer its load of Russian crude to another vessel near the Omani port of Sohar this week. The ship had been signalling Sikka in western India as its destination from early March, before idling off the country’s west coast for more than a week and then travelling back to Oman to make the transfer, according to Bloomberg ship-tracking. 

The Caroline Bezengi, which received about one million barrels of Urals crude from the New Discovery, was not signalling a destination, Kpler data show.

Transferring oil from one vessel to another is often done to mask the origin of the cargo, and sometimes to split up the shipment to meet draft restrictions at certain ports. Oman and Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates are common locations for transfers in the Middle East, while in Asia they’re often done in the waters off Malaysia.

Oman now seems to be gaining in popularity as a location for the reloading of Russian barrels. Before the New Discovery, three other tankers had passed their cargo of Urals crude to other vessels in the country’s waters since early February. The ships that received the oil then discharged their cargo at Indian ports.

India has been a major buyer of discounted Russian oil since the invasion of Ukraine, but tighter enforcement of US sanctions is now disrupting the trade. DM

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  • Kenneth FAKUDE says:

    Ukraine must be commended for the way they fight this war with only faith and determination.
    The support of hesitant allies who don’t supply weapons according to Frontline needs but supply cautiously not to escalate a war that was already full blown on conception, a fancy name was used not alarm the Russian populace.
    Ukraine has unnecessary lost it’s soldiers due to the cautious support and are now far outmatched in man power and artillery, it’s either boots on the ground like France is not ruling out which obviously annoys allies or conceding to Russia and loose 20% or more of their land and the Baltic states can brace themselves for war.
    Perhaps America and Allies have a rabbit in a hat somewhere which will change this situation, but Ukraine is frustrated by the war and the measured support they get and don’t get when they need it the most.

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