KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russia unleashed a series of attacks on Ukrainian rail and oil facilities on Monday, hitting crucial infrastructure far from the front line of its eastern offensive, which Britain says will not has not yet made a significant breakthrough
KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russia unleashed a series of attacks on Ukrainian rail and oil facilities on Monday, hitting crucial infrastructure far from the front line of its eastern offensive, which Britain says will not has not yet achieved any significant breakthrough.
Meanwhile, two fires were reported at oil facilities in western Russia. It is not known what caused the fires.
Like both sides in the 2 month war Brace for what could be an uphill battle of attrition in the industrial heartland of the country’s east, as senior US officials have pledged more help to secure Ukraine’s victory.
During meetings with President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv on Sunday, the US Secretaries of State and Defense said Washington had approved a $165 million ammunition sale for Ukraine’s war effort, as well as over $300 million in foreign military funding.
“The strategy we have put in place – massive support for Ukraine, massive pressure against Russia, solidarity with more than 30 countries committed to these efforts – is delivering real results,” Blinken told reporters in Poland the day after the meeting.
“As far as Russia’s war aims are concerned, Russia is failing. Ukraine is succeeding,” he added.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba welcomed US support but said that “as long as Russian soldiers set foot on Ukrainian soil, nothing will be enough.”
Kuleba warned that if Western powers want Ukraine to win the war and “stop Putin in Ukraine and not allow him to go further, deeper into Europe”, then countries must speed up the delivery of weapons demanded by Ukraine.
Speaking to senior officials in the Attorney General’s Office on Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the United States and its allies had tried in vain to “divide Russian society and destroy Russia from within.”
When Russia invaded on February 24, its apparent objective was a lightning offensive that would quickly take the capital and possibly even overthrow the government. But the Ukrainians, aided by western armsbogged down Putin’s troops and thwarted their push towards kyiv.
Moscow now claims to focus on the eastern Donbass region, although a senior military official said he also wanted to control southern Ukraine. While both sides have said the campaign in the east has begun, it has yet to gain momentum.
A small group of Ukrainian soldiers holed up in a steelworks in the strategic town of Mariupol are pinning down Russian forces and preventing them from being added to the offensive elsewhere in the Donbass, Britain’s Ministry of Defense said on Monday.
Over the weekend, Russian forces launched new airstrikes on the steelworks in an attempt to dislodge the approximately 2,000 fighters inside. Some 1,000 civilians are also sheltering in the steelworks, and the Russian military has pledged to open a humanitarian corridor on Monday to allow them to leave.
The Russian offer was met with skepticism by Ukraine. Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said on the Telegram messaging app that Ukraine does not consider the route safe and added that Russia has previously violated agreements on similar evacuation routes. She called on the United Nations to oversee an evacuation.
Mariupol has endured heavy fighting since the start of the war due to its strategic location on the Sea of Azov. In addition to freeing Russian troops, its capture would deprive Ukraine of a vital port and allow Moscow to establish a land corridor to the Crimean peninsula, which it seized from Ukraine in 2014.
On Monday, Russia focused its firepower elsewhere, with missiles and warplanes hitting far behind the front line in the eastern region of Donbass.
Oleksandr Kamyshin, the head of Ukraine’s state-run railways, said five railway facilities in central and western Ukraine were hit early on Monday, including a missile attack near the western town from Lviv.
Ukrainian authorities said at least five people were killed by Russian strikes in the central Vynnytsia region. Regional prosecutors said 18 other people were injured.
Russia also destroyed an oil refinery in Kremenchuk, central Ukraine, as well as fuel depots, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov said on Monday. In total, Russian warplanes destroyed 56 Ukrainian targets overnight, he said.
Phillips P. O’Brien, a professor of strategic studies at the University of St. Andrews, said war is settling, for now, in a campaign of incremental battlefield gains and losses.
“Both sides are getting weaker every day,” he said. “So it’s a question of what you can bring new, but what can you destroy on the other side?”
Meanwhile, a major fire broke out early Monday at an oil depot in a Russian town about 100 kilometers (60 miles) from the Ukrainian border, the Russian Emergencies Ministry said. No cause was given for the fire. Photos from the scene showed a huge plume of thick smoke swirling in the sky.
The Bryansk oil depot is owned by a subsidiary of Russian state-controlled Transneft, which operates the Druzhba pipeline that transports crude west to other European countries. The ministry said in a statement that the massive fire damaged a depot containing diesel fuel. He noted that the region has enough diesel for 15 days.
It was unclear whether the depot was part of the pipeline infrastructure, but Polish pipeline operator PERN said deliveries to Poland were not affected.
A Russian report said another oil storage facility in Bryansk also caught fire early Monday, and the cause was not immediately known.
Last month, two Ukrainian helicopter gunships hit an oil tank in the Russian region of Belgorod, which borders Ukraine, causing a fire.
In a video address on Monday, Zelenskyy described his meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin as “encouraging and, above all, effective.”
The Ukrainian leader added that they agreed “on new measures to strengthen the armed forces of Ukraine and meet all the priority needs of our army”. Earlier he praised US President Joe Biden for his “personal support”.
The three-hour meeting took place on Sunday, the 60th day since the start of the invasion, as Ukraine pressured the West for stronger weapons against Russia’s campaign in Donbass, where the Moscow-backed separatists controlled some territories before the war.
With Russia’s shift in focus, Austin said Ukraine’s military needs were changing and Zelenskyy was now focusing on more tanks, artillery and other ammunition.
Asked what the United States considers a success, Austin said that “we want to see Ukraine remain a sovereign country, a democratic country capable of protecting its sovereign territory, we want to see Russia weakened to the point where it does not can’t do things like invade Ukraine.
As Blinken and Austin left Ukraine, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres was due to visit Turkey on Monday, then Moscow and kyiv. Zelenskyy criticized Guterres for visiting Russia before Ukraine.
Blinken said he spoke with Guterres on Friday before the trip.
“We expect him to send a very loud and clear message to Vladimir Putin, which is the need to end this war now,” he said.
In a boost for Ukraine, French President Emmanuel Macron comfortably won a second term on Sunday on far-right challenger Marine Le Pen, who had pledged to dilute France’s ties with the European Union and NATO. Le Pen had also spoken out against EU sanctions on Russian energy and had come under scrutiny during the campaign due to her previous friendship with the Kremlin.
Associated Press reporters Yuras Karmanau and Jon Gambrell in Lviv, Ukraine, and AP staff around the world contributed.
Follow the AP’s coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine
David Keyton, The Associated Press