Russia has launched a series of attacks on Ukrainian rail and fuel facilities, hitting vital infrastructure far from the front lines of its offensive in the east.
Meanwhile, two fires have been reported at oil facilities in western Russia, not far from the Ukrainian border. What caused the flames was unclear.
As both warring factions prepare for a potentially bitter attrition in the country’s eastern industrial heartland, senior US officials pledged more aid to ensure Ukraine prevails.
In a bold visit to Kyiv to meet President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Sunday, US secretaries of state and defense said Washington had approved a $165 million sale of ammunition — mostly, if not exclusively, non-US ammunition to fit Ukraine’s Soviet-era weapons with more than $300 million in funding to buy more supplies.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said after the meeting that the West’s united support for Ukraine and pressure on Moscow is showing “real results”.
“When it comes to Russia’s war aims, Russia fails. Ukraine is succeeding,” he added.
In an interview with the Associated Press, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba welcomed American support but said that “as long as Russian soldiers set foot on Ukrainian soil, nothing is enough.”
Mr. Kuleba warned that if Western powers want Ukraine to win the war and “stop Putin in Ukraine and not allow him to advance further, deeper into Europe,” then countries must speed up delivery of the arms requested by Ukraine.
Russian President Vladimir Putin accused the US and its allies of trying to “divide Russian society and destroy Russia from within”.
When Russia invaded on February 24, its obvious aim was to capture Kiev in a flash and perhaps overthrow its government. But the Ukrainians, with the help of Western weapons, have deadlocked Mr. Putin’s forces and thwarted their advance on Kyiv.
Moscow now says its goal is to conquer the predominantly Russian-speaking Donbass region in the east. While both sides said the campaign is underway in the east, Russia has yet to launch a full-scale ground offensive and has not yet made any major breakthroughs.
Ukrainian troops holed up at a steel plant in the strategic city of Mariupol are tying down Russian forces and apparently preventing them from going on the offensive elsewhere in the Donbass.
Britain said it believes 15,000 Russian soldiers have been killed in Ukraine since Moscow began the invasion. Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said 25% of Russian combat units deployed to Ukraine were “ineffective” and Russia lost more than 2,000 armored vehicles and more than 60 helicopters and fighter jets.
According to Ukrainian officials, around 2,500 to 3,000 Ukrainian soldiers had been killed by mid-April.
Over the weekend, Russian forces launched airstrikes on the plant to evict the estimated 2,000 fighters. About 1,000 civilians also took shelter at the steelworks, and the Russian military promised to open a humanitarian corridor for them to exit.
The Russian offer was met with skepticism by Ukraine. Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said on the Telegram messaging app that Ukraine did not consider the route safe, adding that Russia had previously broken agreements on similar evacuation routes. She called on the United Nations to monitor an evacuation.
Due to its strategic location on the Sea of Azov, Mariupol has endured heavy fighting since the beginning of the war. In addition to liberating 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 concentrated its firepower elsewhere, with missiles and warplanes falling far behind the front lines in an apparent attempt to slow the eastward movement of Ukrainian supplies and cut off the flow of fuel needed by the country’s armed forces.
Oleksandr Kamyshin, the head of the State Railways of Ukraine, said that five railway facilities in central and western Ukraine were hit on Monday. This included a rocket attack near the western city of Lviv.
Ukrainian authorities said at least five people were killed by Russian attacks in the central Vynnytsia region.
Russia also destroyed an oil refinery in Kremenchuk in central Ukraine, along with fuel storage facilities there, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov said. In all, Russian warplanes destroyed 56 Ukrainian targets overnight, he said.
Phillips P. O’Brien, professor of strategic studies at the University of St Andrews, said the war had devolved into a campaign of mounting battlefield losses and gains for the time being.
“The two sides are weakening each other almost every day,” he said. “So it’s about what you can bring in new” and “what you can destroy on the other side”.
Meanwhile, a major fire broke out early Monday at an oil depot in a Russian town about 60 miles from the Ukrainian border, Russia’s Emergencies Ministry said. A cause for the fire was not given. Photos showed a huge, churning plume of smoke.
The Bryansk oil depot is owned by a subsidiary of Russian state-owned Transneft, which operates the Druzhba pipeline, which transports crude oil west to other European countries. The ministry said the fire damaged a diesel fuel depot. The region has enough diesel for 15 days, it said.
It wasn’t clear if the depot was part of the pipeline infrastructure, but Polish pipeline operator PERN said deliveries to Poland were unaffected.
According to a Russian news report, another oil storage facility in Bryansk also caught fire on Monday.
Last month, two Ukrainian attack helicopters struck an oil depot in Russia’s Belgorod region near the Ukrainian border.
In a video address on Monday, Zelensky described his meeting with Mr Blinken and US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin as “encouraging and, most importantly, effective”.
The Ukrainian leader added that agreement had been reached on “further steps to strengthen Ukraine’s armed forces and to meet all the priority needs of our army.”
With Russia’s focus shifting to the Donbas, Mr. Zelensky is now concentrating on heavier weapons such as tanks and artillery.
“We want Ukraine to remain a sovereign country, a democratic country capable of protecting its sovereign territory,” Austin said. “We want Russia to be weakened enough that it can no longer do things like invade Ukraine.”
In a boost for Ukraine, French President Emmanuel Macron easily won a second term on Sunday against far-right challenger Marine Le Pen, who had promised to loosen France’s ties with the European Union and NATO.
Ms Le Pen had spoken out against EU sanctions on Russian energy and had come under scrutiny during the election campaign for her past friendliness with the Kremlin.
https://www.independent.ie/world-news/europe/putin-targets-rail-and-fuel-facilities-deep-in-ukraine-as-mysterious-blaze-rages-at-russian-oil-depot-41586339.html As a mysterious fire rages at a Russian oil depot, Putin targets railroad and gas stations deep in Ukraine