German FM warns in Kyiv of 'dramatic' worsening on Ukraine front

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock voiced concern on Tuesday over the worsening battlefield conditions for Ukrainian forces on the eastern front, during an unannounced visit to Kyiv.

The visit from Baerbock, who urged the West to supply Ukraine with more air defences, came after more than two dozen Russian drones targeted Ukraine overnight, in an attack that left several wounded in the eastern Kharkiv region.

"The situation in Ukraine has once more dramatically deteriorated with the massive Russian aerial attacks on civilian infrastructure and the brutal Russian offensive in the Kharkiv region," Baerbock said when she arrived for her eighth visit to the country since Russia invaded in February 2022.

To protect itself from the "rain of Russian drones and missiles", Ukraine "urgently needs a boosted air defence", she said.

"Our support is based on the deep conviction that Ukraine will win this war," Baerbock said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned last week that the Russian ground offensive launched this month in the Kharkiv region may only be a "first wave" and that Russian troops could be aiming for the city of Kharkiv -- the second largest in Ukraine.

The Russian official appointed by Moscow as governor of the Kharkiv region said on Tuesday that his country's forces were now in control of nearly half of Vovchansk.

The town near the Russian border that had around 17,000 residents before the war and is now the epicentre of fighting.

- Drone barrage -

"Our guys control about 40 percent of the city. They have cut deep into the defence and knocked out the enemy as far as they could," said the official, Vitaly Ganchev.

"The northern part of the city has already been completely liberated," he told Russian state television.

A Ukrainian military spokesman meanwhile told state media that fighting in the Kharkiv region "remains difficult and is changing dynamically".

But he also said the number of bouts with Russian forces had decreased.

In a rebuke to Baerbock, the Kremlin said that even if supplies of Western weapons to Ukraine picked up, more deliveries would not change Russia's dominant position on the front.

"It will still not allow the Ukrainian armed forces to somehow change the dynamics on the fronts," spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

Zelensky has repeatedly called on Ukraine's allies to provide at least seven more air defence systems, including at least two to protect the Kharkiv region.

Russian President Vladimir Putin believes that Ukraine and its allies will at some point run out of steam, Baerbock said.

"(But) we have the capacity to hold out," she said.

Just before Baerbock arrived, the Ukrainian air force said it had intercepted 28 out of 29 Iranian-designed attack drones launched by Russian forces overnight.

The unmanned aerial vehicles were downed over southern and eastern regions of Ukraine.

The head of the Kharkiv region said a 53-year-old man was wounded by Russian rocket fire that targeted a transport infrastructure facility.

Systematic Russian attacks on Ukraine's energy grid have crippled the sector and officials in the capital announced rolling power cuts throughout the day on Tuesday to reduce the load on the network.

The national grid operator said Ukraine was importing electricity from Hungary, Moldova, Poland, Romania and Slovakia to make up a shortfall due to Russian strikes.

bur-jbr/gil