KYIV: Kyiv can expect more deliveries of heavy weapons from Western countries soon, NATO said on Sunday, as President Vladimir Putin praised his forces after their claimed capture of a Ukraine town.
Washington meanwhile condemned the missile on a tower block in the eastern city of Dnipro, as the death toll rose to 30 as rescue teams kept up the search for survivors.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Ukraine could expect more heavy weapons following Kyiv's requests to its allies for the vehicles, artillery and missiles it says are key to defending itself.
“The recent pledges for heavy warfare equipment are important — and I expect more in the near future,” Stoltenberg told Germany's Handelsblatt daily, ahead of a meeting this week of a group that coordinates arms supplies to Kyiv.
Days after Russia claimed to have taken Soledar in eastern Ukraine, a salt-mining outpost home to 10,000 before the conflict, Putin hailed it as a major success.
“There is a positive dynamic, everything is developing according to plans,” Putin said, in an interview broadcast Sunday. “I hope that our fighters will please us more than once again.”
Russia's defence ministry announced this week that it had “completed the liberation” of Soledar.
This could be a key gain as Russian forces push towards what has been their main target since October — the nearby transport crossroads of Bakhmut.
Rivalries in Soledar
Ukraine has denied the Russian claims, insisting that heavy fighting continues in Soledar.
But on Sunday, the US-based Institute for the Study of War said that “Ukrainian forces are highly unlikely to still hold positions within the settlement of Soledar itself”.
Russia's victory there, if that is what it proves to be, follows months of humiliating setbacks.
Both sides have conceded heavy losses in the battle for the town.
Rescue workers in Dnipro meanwhile continued their search for survivors of Saturday's missile strike on a tower block that has so far claimed 30 lives.
Dozens of people were also wounded in the attack, said regional adviser Natalia Babachenko in televised comments.
A 15-year-old girl was among the dead, officials said, after dozens of people were pulled from the rubble, including a woman brought out by rescuers on Sunday.
Babachenko said that “between 30 and 40 people are still under the rubble.”
The Ukrainian army said the block was hit by an X-22 Russian missile that it lacked the capacity to shoot down.
“Only anti-aircraft missile systems, which in the future may be provided to Ukraine by Western partners… are capable of intercepting these air targets,” it said.
The United States joined a growing chorus of condemnation for the attack.
“Yesterday's strikes are another example of the brutal and barbaric war Russia is waging against the Ukrainian people,” said a US National Security Council spokesperson.
“The United States will continue to provide Ukraine with what it needs to defend itself… and we will continue our work to hold Russian forces accountable for their war crimes and atrocities.”
On Saturday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky pleaded for more Western military weapons, saying that Russian “terror” could be stopped only on the battlefield.
“What is needed for this? Those weapons are in the warehouses of our partners,” Zelensky said.
Earlier this month, France, Germany and the United States respectively promised French AMX-10 RC light tanks, 40 German Marder infantry vehicles, and 50 Bradley fighting vehicles.
However, pressure is growing on the allies to go further and agree to the delivery of battle tanks.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Saturday pledged to provide 14 Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine, making it the first Western country to supply the heavy tanks Kyiv has been calling for.
Russia´s embassy in Britain warned that “bringing tanks to the conflict zone… will only serve to intensify combat operations, generating more casualties, including among the civilian population”.
Ukraine was still reeling Sunday from Saturday's barrage, the 12th wave of large-scale missile attacks.
Energy operator Ukrenergo said the infrastructure was “being restored” but that the attacks had meant that power cuts might increase.
The head of the military administration in the southern Kherson region, Yaroslav Yanushevych, said it was again under “massive attack”.
Russian strikes had hit civilian and critical infrastructure, including Red Cross premises and a centre for disabled children, he said.
Russia´s army said it targeted “the military command and related energy facilities… all targets were reached”.