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Ukraine: Fast-Track Arms Talks Underway01/28 09:48

   Ukraine and its Western allies are engaged in "fast-track" talks on the 
possibility of equipping the invaded country with long-range missiles and 
military aircraft, a top Ukrainian presidential aide said Saturday.

   KYIV, Ukraine (AP) -- Ukraine and its Western allies are engaged in 
"fast-track" talks on the possibility of equipping the invaded country with 
long-range missiles and military aircraft, a top Ukrainian presidential aide 
said Saturday.

   Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, 
said Ukraine's supporters in the West "understand how the war is developing" 
and the need to supply planes capable of providing cover for the armored 
fighting vehicles that the United States and Germany pledged at the beginning 
of the month.

   However, in remarks to online video channel Freedom, Podolyak said that some 
of Ukraine's Western partners maintain a "conservative" attitude to arms 
deliveries, "due to fear of changes in the international architecture." Russia 
and North Korea have accused the West of prolonging and taking a direct role in 
the war by sending Kyiv increasingly sophisticated weapons.

   "We need to work with this. We must show (our partners) the real picture of 
this war," Podolyak said, without naming specific countries. "We must speak 
reasonably and tell them, for example, 'This and this will reduce fatalities, 
this will reduce the burden on infrastructure. This will reduce security 
threats to the European continent, this will keep the war localized.' And we 
are doing it,"

   The U.S. and Germany agreed Wednesday to share advanced tanks with Ukraine 
along with the Bradley and Marder vehicles promised earlier, a decision that 
led to criticism not only from the Kremlin but from the prime minister of NATO 
and European Union member Hungary.

   Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban asserted Friday that Western countries 
providing weapons and money to assist Ukraine in its war with Russia have 
"drifted" into becoming active participants in the conflict. Orban has refused 
to send weapons to neighboring Ukraine and sought to block EU funds earmarked 
for military aid.

   The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said it would summon Hungary's ambassador to 
complain about Orban's remarks. A ministry spokesperson, Oleg Nikolenko, said 
Orban told reporters that Ukraine was "a no-man's land" and compared it to 
Afghanistan.

   "Such statements are completely unacceptable. Budapest continues on its 
course to deliberately destroy Ukrainian-Hungarian relations," Nikolenko said 
in a Facebook post.

   President Joe Biden's announcement that the U.S. would send 31 M1 Abrams 
tanks to Ukraine reversed months of arguments by Washington that they were too 
difficult for Ukrainian troops to operate and maintain.

   The U.S. decision persuaded German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who had expressed 
concern about a unilateral action drawing Russia's wrath, to agree to send 14 
Leopard 2 tanks from Germany's stocks and to allow European countries with 
tanks to send some of theirs.

   Amid news of the coordinated effort, Russia bombarded Ukraine with missiles, 
exploding drones and artillery shells. The attacks continued Saturday, when 
Russian missiles struck the city of Kostyantynivka in eastern Ukraine's Donetsk 
province.

   The missiles fell in a residential area, killing three civilians, wounding 
14 and damaging four high-rise apartment buildings, a hotel and garages, Gov. 
Pavlo Kyrylenko said.

   "Kostyantynivka is a city relatively far from the front line, but still, it 
constantly suffers from enemy attacks. Everyone who remains in the city exposes 
themselves to mortal danger," Kyrylenko said. "The Russians target civilians 
because they are not able to fight the Ukrainian army."

   In a separate Telegram post earlier Saturday, Kyrylenko reported that 
Russian attacks in the province killed four civilians in all and wounded seven 
others in 24 hours.

   Russian rockets hit a residential area the Donestsk town of Chasiv Yar on 
Friday night, killing of two people and wounding five more, the governor said. 
Photos attached to Kyrylenko's post showed a three-story school building on 
fire.

   Donetsk province, where the territory is roughly split between Russian and 
Ukrainian control, has become the battle epicenter of the war as Moscow tries 
to jump-start a monthslong, grinding offensive to capture the city of Bakhmut.

   Chasiv Yar lies on a hill strategically located for the defense of Bakhmut, 
and has come under intensified Russian shelling. Capturing Bakhmut would allow 
Russian troops to disrupt Ukrainian supply lines and potentially pave the way 
for them to threaten Sloviansk and Kramatorsk, the largest remaining 
Ukrainian-held cities in the country's east.

   Russian forces continued ground attacks around Bakhmut and Avdiivka, another 
Donetsk city to the south, while Ukrainian troops were on the offensive in 
southern and northeast Ukraine, the Ukrainian military said in a Saturday 
morning update.

   The General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said that Russian troops 
"are defending themselves" near Lyman in Luhansk and Kharkiv provinces north of 
Donetsk, as well in Kherson and Zaporizhzhia provinces in the south.

   The fighting has largely been deadlocked over the past months, with winter 
conditions slowing down ground operations and neither side reporting 
significant progress.

   In the same update, the military reported that Russian forces launched 10 
missile strikes, 26 air strikes and 81 shelling attacks on Ukrainian territory 
between Friday and Saturday mornings. The shelling killed two civilians in 
Kherson, another province that is partly Russian-occupied.

   Podolyak, the presidential adviser, said Ukraine needs supplies of Western 
long-range missiles "to drastically curtail the key tool of the Russian army" 
by destroying the warehouses where it stores cannon artillery used on the front 
line.

 
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