Ukrainian troops attacked an air defense system in a Russian-occupied zone in the eastern part of the country on Tuesday night, the latest sign of how long-range artillery from the West is changing the calculus of war.
Russian state news agencies reported that Ukrainian forces had launched airstrikes on air defenses protecting the skies over Luhansk, the capital of one of two small Russian-created states in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine.
This is the latest in a string of attacks by Ukraine on high-value targets such as ammunition depots and command posts since the multi-launched rocket system known as the Himar began arriving from the United States last month.
“The occupiers already know very well what modern artillery is, and they won’t have a safe rear anywhere on our soil,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said overnight. said in a video speech.
Video posted on social media by residents of Luhansk on Tuesday night showed a large explosion. Russian military journalists said on social media that an ammunition depot in the Luhansk industrial zone had been attacked.
“The Ukrainian armed forces launched a massive attack on the military air defenses, which ensured the security of the city of Luhansk,” said Andrei Marochko, a spokesman for the militia group calling itself the Luhansk People’s Republic.
The Luhansk People’s Republic later said the U.S.-made Himal had fired nine missiles at Luhansk.
After weeks of intense fighting, both sides paid dearly, with Russian troops claiming control of the entire Luhansk region earlier this month.
The governor of the exiled Luhansk province, Shershi Hayday, said the attack on Russian ammunition depots had disrupted supplies, noting an increase in the activity of Russian subversion and reconnaissance groups that were exploring weak links in Ukraine’s defenses.
At the same time, the Russian military has stepped up its missile strikes on positions far from the front lines.
The death toll from a weekend Russian strike on a residential building in Chasiv Yar rose to 47, including a child, said Kyrilo Tymoshenko, deputy head of Ukraine’s presidential office. Nine people were pulled alive from the rubble, he said.
Five civilians were killed in Russian shelling on the southern district of Mykolaiv on Wednesday, Tymoshenko said, adding that a hospital and residential buildings were damaged.
Russia also fired two missiles at the city of Zaporozhye in southeastern Ukraine, according to the Regional Military Administration.
According to Ukrainian official Valentin Reznichenko, Russian troops shelled the Nikopol district of Dnipropetrovsk overnight using a multiple rocket system.
Since Russia took over Luhansk, it has targeted the Donetsk region, parts of which are already under Russian and separatist control. Seizing the rest of the region would give Moscow full control of the Donbas region, which the Kremlin made a priority after it pulled its forces out of central Ukraine in late March.
“Attempts to attack did not stop in the Donbass, the situation there did not get easier and the losses did not get smaller,” Mr Zelensky said.
The leader of the Russia-backed self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, Denis Pushlin, said on Wednesday that Russian and separatist forces were advancing towards the towns of Seversk and Soledar, according to Russian state news agency TASS. The towns are located between the city of Severo Donetsk, which Russia captured late last month, and the city of Slovyansk, one of Moscow’s next targets, according to the Institute for War Studies, a Washington-based think tank.
Mr Pushlin also said more than 100 cases of captured Ukrainian fighters were ready for court. He said some cases will be heard by the courts and others by the courts.
Last month, a court in the Donetsk People’s Republic sentenced three foreign fighters to death, two from the United Kingdom, both of whom had lived in Ukraine for years before the conflict, and one from Morocco, with Ukrainian nationality, alleging They do work. as mercenaries.
Mr Pushilin said the three men – Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner of Britain and Brahim Saadoun of Morocco – had appealed their sentences but faced death by firing squad if their appeal was denied.
Late Wednesday afternoon, TASS news agency reported that North Korea had recognized the independence of the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics, making it the third country after Russia and Syria to do so.
“The bilateral partnership will expand the geographic scope of trade between companies from our two countries,” Mr Pushlin said, according to TASS news agency.
In Istanbul, officials from Ukraine, Russia, Turkey and the United Nations held talks on a proposal to export millions of tons of grain trapped in Ukraine because of the Russian invasion.
The meeting between military officials from the three countries was the first direct talks between Russia and Ukraine on a proposed corridor that would transport food through the Black Sea.
Also on Wednesday, the European Commission issued new guidance on imposing sanctions in an attempt to defuse tensions with Moscow over blocking some Russian goods from entering Kaliningrad, the Russian enclave between Poland and Lithuania on the Baltic Sea coast.
The guide emphasizes that there are no sanctions exemptions for shipments from Russia to Kaliningrad via EU territory, but is designed to smooth the passage of shipments by rail. Member states bordering Kaliningrad – Lithuania and Poland – should ensure that rail traffic remains at the historical average of the past three years, the committee said. The transit of sanctioned military and dual-use goods and technology remains completely prohibited.
Some EU capitals, including Germany, fear Lithuania’s enforcement of sanctions could trigger a dangerous escalation in the Kremlin, which has accused the Baltic nation of imposing a blockade in Kaliningrad.
The new guidelines won’t eliminate the need for Lithuania to inspect goods, but it could allow two-way trade flows between Russia and Kaliningrad to face fewer obstacles.
Earlier on Wednesday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that Moscow expected some progress in the situation.
“But we can’t say now that the problem is solved,” he said.
—Lawrence Norman contributed to this article.
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