Kyiv: Russia unleashed a string of attacks against Ukrainian rail and fuel facilities Monday. The strikes were aimed at infrastructure far from the front line of its eastern offensive. Meanwhile, two fires were reported at oil facilities in western Russia. It was not clear what caused the blazes.
Both sides in the two-month-old war brace for what could be a grinding battle of attrition in the Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland. On the other hand, top American officials pledged more help to ensure Ukraine prevails.
In meetings with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy here Sunday, the American secretaries of state and defence said Washington had approved a $165 million sale of ammunition for Ukraine’s war effort, along with more than $300 million in foreign military financing.
“The strategy that we’ve put in place – massive support for Ukraine, massive pressure against Russia, solidarity with more than 30 countries engaged in these efforts – is having real results,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters in Poland the day after the meeting. “When it comes to Russia’s war aims, Russia is failing. Ukraine is succeeding,” he added.
Russian President Vladimir Putin however, remains defiant. Putin spoke Monday to top officials at the Prosecutor General’s office. He said that the US and its allies have tried and failed to ‘split Russian society and to destroy Russia from within’.
When Russia invaded Ukraine February 24, its apparent goal was a lightning offensive that would quickly take the capital and perhaps even topple the government in Kyiv. But the Ukrainians, aided by Western weapons, bogged Putin’s troops down and thwarted their push to Kyiv.
Moscow now says its focus in the eastern region of the Donbas. However, one senior military official said Russia also wants to control southern Ukraine. While both sides said the campaign in the east has begun, it has yet to gather steam.
A small group of Ukrainian troops holed up in a steel plant in the strategic city of Mariupol are tying down Russian forces. They are preventing the Russian troops from being added to the offensive elsewhere in the Donbas, Britain’s Ministry of Defence said Monday.
Over the weekend, Russian forces launched fresh airstrikes on the steel plant in an attempt to dislodge the estimated 2,000 fighters inside. An estimated 1,000 civilians are also sheltering in the steelworks. The Russian military has pledged to open a humanitarian corridor Monday for them to leave.
Mariupol has endured fierce fighting since the start of the war because of its strategic location on the Sea of Azov. In addition to freeing up Russian troops, its capture would deprive Ukraine of a vital port. It would also allow Moscow to establish a land corridor to the Crimean Peninsula, which it seized from Ukraine in 2014.
But for now, the British Defence Ministry said that Russia has ‘yet to achieve a significant breakthrough’ since shifting its focus to the Donbas. Ukrainian forces have repelled numerous assaults in the past week and ‘inflicted significant cost on Russian forces,” it said.
Instead, Russian missiles and war planes struck far behind the frontline of that offensive Monday. Oleksandr Kamyshin, the head of the state-run Ukrainian Railways, said five railway facilities in central and western Ukraine were hit early Monday, including a missile attack near the western city of Lviv.
Russia also destroyed an oil refinery in Kremenchuk in central Ukraine, along with fuel depots there, Russian Defence Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov said Monday. In all, Russian warplanes destroyed 56 Ukrainian targets overnight, he said.