Russian missiles once again rained down on the Kharkiv region on Wednesday and Thursday, this time killing three rescue workers in the country’s second-largest city, and injuring five civilians in a separate missile strike in the town of Zmiiv.

The three rescue workers were combing through the rubble of a previous strike when a follow-up volley of Russian ordnance in the early hours of Thursday killed them. Four strikes were recorded in the city, with one destroying the top floor of a residential building.

Continuous bombardment of the region in recent days has destroyed civilian infrastructure, leaving thousands of Kharkiv residents without power or water.

A few hours earlier, Moscow’s missiles targeted a community about 30 kilometers south of the regional capital.


“In the afternoon, the enemy launched a missile attack on a village in the Zmiiv district of our region. Five victims are known to have been injured,” Serhii Melnyk, a general who commands a regional garrison posted to social media.

White House pushes back on floated plan to transfer leadership of defense contact group

The White House on Wednesday expressed an unwillingness to relinquish its leadership of the 50-plus member Ukraine Defense Contact Group, known informally as the Ramstein Group, as per a proposal from NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

“It is bigger than NATO, it’s 50 some-odd nations all around the world, including in the Indo-Pacific, and what brought them together was American leadership,” White House national security communications adviser John Kirby told a group of reporters on a call. “What’s keeping them together is American leadership.”

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The group’s primary objective is to ensure the flow of weapons and ammunition to Kyiv to defend against Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, now in its third year.

Stoltenberg had floated the idea to relieve Washington of its leadership position, along with the creation of a €100 billion ($108 billion) NATO fund for Ukraine, as a way to safeguard against the possibility that the US could walk away from such agreements to support Kyiv if Donald Trump were to be elected president in November.


“​​Ukrainians, they need more support, but they also need more predictable and long-term support,” Stoltenberg said at a Wednesday press conference. 

Foreign ministers of NATO member nations have promised to reach a consensus on the proposal before a July meeting in the US capital, marking the 75th anniversary of the Alliance’s formation.

Zelensky fires back at condemnation of strikes into Russia, meets with Finnish leader

President Volodymyr Zelensky defended the use of long-range unmanned vehicles to attack a drone factory that reportedly led to 13 people being injured in a workers’ dormitory attached to the plant. 

When asked about the United Nations “condemning” attacks on “civilian infrastructure,” Zelensky instead said that such words should be equated with Russian strikes on Kharkiv in eastern Ukraine, where much of its energy infrastructure has been destroyed.


“To truly grasp how people survive in Kharkiv without power and water, you must come, see, and then decide whether to condemn something or not. Russia understands nothing but force,” said Ukraine’s second war-time president at a joint news conference with his Finnish counterpart in Kyiv on April 3.

The previous day, UN Secretary General spokesperson, Stéphane Dujarric, was asked to comment on Ukraine’s drone strike deep into Russia that included damage caused at a vast oil refinery. 

“We stand against, and call for a halt to, all attacks on civilian infrastructure,” he said at a daily news briefing

Meanwhile, Zelensky and Finnish President Alexander Stubb signed a 10-year bilateral security cooperation agreement between the two countries

Discussions between both parties “focused on security issues,” the Ukrainian presidential website stated. “The parties also discussed defense co-production and experience in security solutions for the construction of shelters.”

Helsinki announced a 23rd military aid package that day equaling €188 million ($204 million), bringing the Finnish total security assistance to €2 billion ($2.17 billion).

“It is mostly military aid. It includes air defense systems and large-caliber artillery ammunition, among other things. This is our support for Ukraine,” Stubb said.


Finland fought what historians call the “Winter War” of 1939-1940 against invading Soviet Union forces despite declaring itself a neutral country at the outset of World War II. Finland ceded 11 percent of its territory to the Soviet Union in March 1940.

French and Russian defense ministers discuss counterterrorism intel sharing

In a rare phone call between top Kremlin brass and a major Western European power since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, French Defense Minister Sebastien Lecornu and his Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu reportedly spoke for about an hour on Wednesday about a potential collaboration to combat Islamic fundamentalist terror attacks, and also about France’s firm support for Kyiv.

Lecornu told Shoigu that France is ready to “step up exchanges” to combat terrorism, AFP reported, in the wake of the mass shooting at a Moscow concert hall that killed 144 people on March 22. The Islamic State took credit for the attack, although Russian President Vladimir Putin has tried to implicate Ukraine as well.

The Crocus City Hall massacre stoked fears of potential terror attacks at the Summer Olympic Games to be held in Paris starting July 26. Accordingly, Lecornu invited the Russians to engage in “increased exchanges with the aim of fighting this threat as effectively as possible,” the French Defense Ministry stated.


Lecornu also addressed the war in Ukraine on the call with his counterpart on Arbatskaya Square, noting that “France will continue to support Ukraine as long and as intensely as necessary in its fight for freedom and sovereignty, in order to bring peace and security to the European continent,” the statement read.

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