Russia seeks to sow fear through ‘missile terrorism’, says Ukrainian official

Complaining that the West is ‘stuffing Ukraine with weapons’, Russia bombed train stations and other supply targets across the country on Wednesday, as the European Union moved to further punish Moscow for the war by proposing a ban on oil imports.

Heavy fighting also raged at the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol which represented the last pocket of Ukrainian resistance in the crumbling southern port city, according to the mayor. A Russian official denied that troops from Moscow stormed the factory, but the commander of the main Ukrainian military unit inside said Russian troops broke into the territory of the factory.

The Russian military also said it used sea- and air-launched missiles to destroy electrical installations at five railway stations across Ukraine, while artillery and aircraft also hit troop strongholds and depots. fuel and ammunition.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba accused Russia of “using the tactics of missile terrorism in order to sow fear throughout Ukraine”.

A destroyed Russian military vehicle is seen on a road near Pokrovske in eastern Ukraine on Wednesday. (Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP/Getty Images)

Air raid sirens sounded in cities across the country on Wednesday night and attacks were reported near the capital, Kyiv; in Cherkasy and Dnipro in central Ukraine; and in Zaporizhzhia in the southeast. In Dnipro, authorities said a railway facility was hit. Videos on social media suggest a bridge was attacked there.

There was no immediate word on the casualties or the extent of the damage.

Responding to the strikes in his nightly video address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said: “All these crimes will be answered, legally and practically – on the battlefield.”

Watch events in Moscow

The wave of attacks comes as Russia prepares to celebrate Victory Day on May 9, marking the Soviet Union’s defeat by Nazi Germany. The world is watching to see if Russian President Vladimir Putin will take the opportunity to declare victory or expand what he calls a “special military operation.”

Russian military vehicles drive towards Red Square to watch a rehearsal of the Victory Day parade in Moscow on Wednesday. The military parade will take place in the square on May 9 to celebrate the Russian defeat of Nazi Germany. (Alexander Zemlianichenko/The Associated Press)

A declaration of total war would allow Putin to introduce martial law and mobilize reservists to compensate for the heavy troop losses. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called the speculation “nonsense”.

Meanwhile, Belarus, which Russia used as a base for its invasion, announced the start of military exercises on Wednesday. A senior Ukrainian official said the country would be ready to act if Belarus joined the fighting.

Anger against Western weapons

The attacks on railway infrastructure were aimed at disrupting the delivery of Western weapons, said Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. said Igor Konashenkov.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said the West was “loading Ukraine with weapons”.

Ducks walk past smoke billowing from a burning storage building on Wednesday after it was bombed in the village of Temyrivka, Ukraine. (Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP/Getty Images)

A senior US defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the Pentagon’s assessment, said that while the Russians attempted to strike critical infrastructure around the western city of Lviv, specifically targeting paths iron, there was “no appreciable impact” on Ukraine’s effort. to replenish his forces.

Lviv, near the Polish border, has been a major gateway for weapons supplied by NATO.

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The influx of Western armaments into Ukraine has helped its forces thwart Russia’s initial bid to seize kyiv and looks certain to play a central role in the growing battle for Donbas, the eastern industrial region Moscow says now that she is his main focus.

Ukraine has urged the West to increase arms supplies ahead of this potentially decisive clash. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who was initially slow to help arm Ukraine, said his government was considering providing howitzers, in addition to the Gepard anti-aircraft guns and other equipment he had agreed to send. .

Workers carry a missile fragment next to a damaged electrical substation following a strike in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv on Wednesday. The Russian Defense Ministry said its air and sea weapons destroyed six electrical substations near railway lines, including around Lviv. (Yuriy Dyachyshyn/AFP/Getty Images)

The governor of the eastern region of Donetsk, located in the Donbass, said Russian attacks had killed 21 on Tuesday, the highest death toll since April 8, when a missile attack on Kramatorsk railway station killed killed at least 59 people.

EU considering more sanctions

In addition to supplying arms to Ukraine, Europe and the United States have sought to punish Moscow with sanctions. The senior EU official called on the 27-nation bloc to ban imports of Russian oil, a crucial source of revenue.

A woman stands in her living room in front of windows covered with plastic sheeting on Wednesday after the panes shattered due to shelling in Dobropillia, Ukraine. (Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images)

“We will ensure that Russian oil is phased out in an orderly manner, so that we and our partners can secure alternative supply routes and minimize the impact on global markets.” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France.

The proposal must be approved unanimously by EU countries and is expected to be debated fiercely. Hungary and Slovakia have already declared that they will not participate in any oil sanctions. An exemption could be granted to them.

The EU is also talking about a possible embargo on Russian natural gas. The bloc has already approved a Russian coal cut.

The Russian economy, including the funding of its military, is heavily dependent on oil and natural gas exports. Kuleba, Ukraine’s foreign minister, said European purchases of Russian energy generate billions in revenue and support the Kremlin’s “war machine”.

Von der Leyen also proposed that Sberbank, Russia’s largest bank, and two other major banks be disconnected from the SWIFT international banking payment system.

The fate of Mariupol

In Mariupol, Mayor Vadym Boychenko said Russian forces were targeting the already destroyed Azovstal factory with heavy artillery, tanks, planes, warships and “heavy bombs that pierce the concrete of three five meters thick”.

“Our brave guys are defending this fortress, but it’s very difficult,” he said.

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On Tuesday, Ukrainian fighters said Russian forces had begun storming the factory. But the Kremlin said that was not true.

“There is no aggression,” Peskov said.

Denys Prokopenko, commander of the Ukrainian Azov regiment defending the plant, said Russian forces broke into the territory of the plant.

Prokopenko said in a video that the incursions continued for a second day, “and there are heavy and bloody battles.”

“The situation is extremely difficult, but despite everything, we continue to carry out the order to hold the defence,” he added.

His wife, Kateryna Prokopenko, told The Associated Press: “We don’t want them to die. They won’t surrender. They are waiting for the bravest countries to evacuate them.”

Ukrainian evacuees eat as people wait for help at a donation collection point in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, on Wednesday. (Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters)

Meanwhile, the United Nations said more than 300 civilians were evacuated Wednesday from Mariupol and other nearby communities. The evacuees were receiving humanitarian aid in Zaporizhzhia, about 230 kilometers to the northwest.

“Many came with nothing but the clothes they were wearing, and now we will support them during this difficult time, including with much-needed psychological support,” said Osnat Lubrani, the UN humanitarian coordinator for the emergency. ‘Ukraine.

Over the weekend, more than 100 people – including women, the elderly and 17 children – were evacuated from the factory during a ceasefire in an operation overseen by the UN and the Red Cross. But the attacks on the factory soon resumed.

The Russian government said on the Telegram messaging app that it would open another evacuation corridor from the factory at certain times from Thursday to Saturday. But there was no immediate confirmation of those arrangements from other parties. Many such assurances from the Kremlin have failed, with Ukrainians blaming continued Russian fighting.