Zelenskyy warns of Russian aim on Kharkiv, pleads for more air defences

Zelenskyy stated bluntly that Ukraine has “only 25% of what we need” in air defence systems to protect against the relentless Russian missile and airstrikes pummeling cities and villages across the country.

As mass evacuations of nearly 10,000 civilians continued from the frontline Kharkiv region over the weekend, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy issued an urgent plea for greater air defence capabilities, warning that Russia could be setting its sights on capturing the key northeastern city itself.

In a national address Sunday night, Zelenskyy stated bluntly that Ukraine has “only 25% of what we need” in air defence systems to protect against the relentless Russian missile and airstrikes pummeling cities and villages across the country.

He appealed to Ukraine’s Western allies to urgently supply those defence systems as his forces brace for anticipated new offensives by Moscow.

On the situation in Kharkiv, Zelenskyy said the area remains under Ukrainian control though the volatile conditions were “under control but not stabilized.” Notably, he stated Russia could be aiming to capture Kharkiv city itself – a dire assessment at odds with previous Kremlin claims that taking the urban centre was not a priority target.

Just hours before Zelenskyy’s speech, Russian President Vladimir Putin had insisted that Moscow’s forces had no plans to occupy Ukrainian territories and were merely seeking to demilitarize areas controlled by Kyiv’s government – comments likely to raise further scepticism given Russia’s repeated violations of Ukrainian sovereignty.

As the leaders’ contradictory rhetoric highlighted the chasm between the warring sides’ positions, on-the-ground realities saw more traumatized Ukrainian families fleeing the path of Russian devastation in Kharkiv.

Scenes from the evacuation convoys showed tearful farewells as residents boarded buses away from the shelling, clutching whatever belongings they could carry.

However, with Ukrainian and Western officials warning the Kharkiv region could be the epicentre of coming offensives, such resilience by remaining civilians may soon find its limit amid urban warfare of the worst intensity.

Already facing a dearth of air defence protection, Ukraine’s pleas for more support appear aimed at alleviating future humanitarian crises of displaced millions that could ensue if Russia’s aerial bombardments are left virtually unchecked.