Kyiv pounded by Russian missiles; Ukraine blunts Russia's momentum in Donbas: Live updates

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Russian President Vladimir Putin said Sunday that the new inclusion of Western long-range missile systems in Ukraine's defenses would lead Moscow to hit “objects that we haven't yet struck.”

Smoke billowed from Kyiv, hit by airstrikes after a lull in assaults on the capital city. Putin's threat came only days after the U.S. announced it was giving Ukraine advanced weaponry.

Military analysts say Russia is hoping to overrun the embattled eastern Donbas region, where Russia-backed separatists have fought the Ukrainian government for years, before any weapons that might turn the tide arrive. The Pentagon said earlier this week it will take at least three weeks to get the precision U.S. weapons and trained troops onto the battlefield.

Russian forces pounded railway facilities and other infrastructure early Sunday in Kyiv, which had previously seen weeks of calm. Ukraine's nuclear plant operator, Energoatom, said one cruise missile buzzed the Pivdennoukrainsk nuclear plant, about 220 miles to the south, on its way to the capital — citing the dangers of such a near miss.

In a posting on the Telegram app, the Russian Defense Ministry said high-precision, long-range, air-launched missiles were used. It said strikes on the outskirts of Kyiv destroyed T-72 tanks supplied by Eastern European countries and other armored vehicles located in buildings of a car-repair business.

WESTERN AID: Biden is giving Ukraine the deadliest weapons yet. Will it make a difference?

Major developments:

►The main temple of a Ukrainian Orthodox monastery in the Donetsk region has been hit by Russian airstrikes, a Ukrainian official said Saturday. The Sviatohirsk Lavra, a wooden structure, was seen ablaze in a video posted to Twitter by presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak.

►Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Twitter that he's embarking Tuesday on a multi-stop international trip that will conclude with a meeting of NATO defense ministers in Brussels to discuss Ukraine, as well as the applications of Sweden and Finland to NATO.

►Spain is getting ready to supply Ukraine with heavier weapons than before, including antiaircraft missiles and about 40 Leopard tanks, as well as training in how to use them, the Spanish newspaper El Pais reported.

►Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said last week that Russia now controls almost 20% of the country's territory. Before the war, Russia controlled 7%, including the Crimea peninsula and parts of the Donbas.

Ukraine soccer team comes up just short of World Cup

Ukraine's spirited and inspiring chase of a spot in soccer's World Cup amid the war fell one win short of its goal Sunday. The Ukrainian national team lost 1-0 to Wales in the European playoff final, failing to qualify for the quadrennial tournament.

An own-goal by Andriy Yarmolenko in the first half accounted for the margin of victory for Wales, which reached the World Cup for the first time in 64 years.

Goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey stopped a couple of strong Ukrainian attempts at equalizing in the second half, denying a storybook ending for the visitors and the legions of supporters who have taken up their cause. Ukrainian players entered the field with a yellow and blue flag sent by soldiers on the frontlines.

The specter of the war was evident in the Welsh capital with a message of peace in English and Ukrainian on the screens in the Cardiff City Stadium, where the home fans applauded the Ukrainian national anthem. Back home, on the 102nd day of the war, Ukrainians took respite from the pain and suffering by watching the game in bars, including in the capital Kyiv hours after it was hit by Russian airstrikes.

Ukraine stops Russian momentum in contested Donbas

Ukrainian forces have counterattacked in the contested city of Sieverodonetsk in eastern Ukraine, likely blunting Russia's momentum, the British Defense Ministry said in an assessment released on Sunday.

Russian forces in the Donbas region include reserves of Russian-led separatists of the self-declared Luhansk People’s Republic – troops that are poorly equipped and trained and lack heavy equipment in comparison to regular Russian units, the assessment says. The use of proxy infantry forces for urban clearance operations is a Russian tactic previously observed in Syria.

"This approach likely indicates a desire to limit casualties suffered by regular Russian forces," the assessment says.

Burn doctor in US who treats Ukrainian children shifts focus to helping war victims

For a dozen years, Dr. Gennadiy Fuzaylov and the nonprofit he founded, Doctors Collaborating to Help Children, made medical mission trips to Ukraine to treat children with serious burn injuries.

The organization's doctors also trained Ukrainian colleagues and established a program to reduce the high number of burns from scalding accidents among children in a country where water heaters are not common and many people have to heat water on a stove for bathing or cleaning.

When the Russian invasion began on Feb. 24, Fuzaylov, who grew up in the former Soviet Union before fleeing with his family to the United States, worried about the children he had treated and the ones now subject to injuries of war.

The nonprofit's focus has shifted to adjust to the current reality, and the emphasis now is on collecting donations of medical supplies and sending them to the impacted areas.

"What they need is medications, antibiotics ... things that are basic, significant trauma-related surgical interventions," said Dr. Daniel Driscoll, a plastic surgeon who's the director of DCTHC and works with Fuzaylov both at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and Shriners Children's.

"Gennadiy is the wizard who can actually get it there and figure out how it's going to be delivered to the front lines or thereabouts as safely as possible." Read more here.

— Kristen Jordan Shamus, Detroit Free Press

Ukrainian official pushes back on Macron

Mykhailo Podolyak, adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, on Sunday pushed back on French President Emmanuel Macron's warning against humiliating Russia despite its “historic” mistake of invading Ukraine.

"We must not humiliate Russia so that the day when the fighting stops we can build an exit ramp through diplomatic means," Macron said, it was reported Friday in French media. "I am convinced that it is France's role to be a mediating power."

Sunday on Twitter, Podolyak said, "While someone asks not to humiliate, the Kremlin resorts to new insidious attacks. Today’s missile strikes at Kyiv have only 1 goal -- kill as many as possible."

He then called for more weapons to fight Russia, as well as additional sanctions.

Contributing: Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Kyiv hit by Russian airstrikes: Live Ukraine updates