Russian attacks on bridges and rail structures indicate a change in strategy

Russia yesterday attacked eastern and southern Ukraine as the United States vowed to “move heaven and earth” to get Kyiv the weapons it needs to repel the new offensive, despite Moscow’s warnings that such support could start a bigger war.

For the second day in a row, explosions rocked the separatist region of Transnistria in neighboring Moldova, demolished two powerful radio antennas near the Ukrainian border and stoked fears a wider conflict could erupt across Europe. No one claimed responsibility for the attacks, but Ukraine blamed Russia.

Russian missile fire also destroyed a strategic railway bridge along a route connecting southern Ukraine’s port region of Odessa with neighboring Romania, a NATO member said, Ukrainian authorities said. The attack on the bridge – along with a series of strikes on key train stations a day earlier – appears to mark a major turning point in Russia’s approach. So far, Moscow has spared strategic bridges, perhaps hoping to keep them for its own use in conquering Ukraine. But now it appears to be trying to thwart Ukraine’s efforts to move troops and supplies.

Southern Ukraine and Moldova have been on edge since a senior Russian military officer said last week the Kremlin’s aim is to secure not just eastern Ukraine but the entire south to pave the way to Transnistria.

Two months into the war, Western weapons have helped Ukraine hold back the Russian invasion, but the country’s leaders have said they need more support quickly. The US and its allies pledged to send more heavy weapons to Ukraine during talks at a German airbase yesterday, brushing off a threat from Moscow that its support for Kyiv could lead to a nuclear war.

But in a move that greatly increases the economic stakes for the West, Russian gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria were cut off yesterday. The move marks the first time the Kremlin has cut gas supplies to a country since the invasion began. It came after Warsaw rejected Vladimir Putin’s demand to pay for petrol in rubles.

Poland’s Environment Minister Anna Moskva confirmed that Poland will no longer receive supplies via the Yamal-Europe pipeline, which pumps Russian gas to Poland.

Bulgaria’s economy minister announced last night that the country was also cut off from Russian gas supplies, despite insisting it had complied with Russia’s terms.

Mateusz Morawiecki, Poland’s Prime Minister, said: “We have been threatened by Gazprom with stopping gas supplies and have taken steps to diversify supplies. We will protect Poland from this Russian measure.”

Piotr Naimski, Poland’s commissioner for strategic energy infrastructure, said yesterday Poland will refuse to pay Russia in rubles and the country is prepared for retaliatory measures.

It came as Warsaw included Gazprom in a new list of economic sanctions targeting 50 Russian companies and oligarchs. Gazprom said supplies to Poland would be halted over the country’s refusal to pay for gas in rubles.

Poland gets 46 percent of its gas supplies from Russia, making it one of the largest buyers of Russian energy in the EU. But Warsaw has repeatedly called for an EU embargo on Russian fossil fuel imports to rob Putin’s war machine of money.

The eastern capital has also urged the EU to repeat its sanctions against Russian firms, including Gazprom.


A Ukrainian farmer puts on a protective vest before going to work on his farm in the Zaporizhia region. Photo: REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino

Meanwhile, Russia’s Defense Ministry said its forces “liberated” the entire Kherson region of southern Ukraine and parts of the Zaporizhia, Mykolayiv and Kharkiv regions, Interfax news agency reported. If confirmed, this would represent a significant Russian advance in eastern and southern Ukraine.

One of Putin’s closest allies, Nikolai Patrushev, said Ukraine is spiraling toward a “multi-state” collapse over what he described as a US attempt to use Kyiv to undermine Russia. His comments appeared to be an attempt to blame Washington for any dismantling of Ukraine that emerges from the war, now in its third month.

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin told officials from more than 40 countries at a US air base in Germany: “Nations from around the world stand united in our determination to support Ukraine in its fight against Russian imperial aggression. Ukraine clearly believes they can win and so does everyone here.”

The US has ruled out sending its own or NATO forces to Ukraine, but Washington and European allies have supplied Kyiv with weapons including heavy howitzer artillery, drones and Stinger anti-aircraft and Javelin anti-tank missiles.

In a notable shift, Germany, which had rejected Ukrainian requests for heavy weapons, announced it would send Gepard light tanks with anti-aircraft guns.

US officials believe, on condition of anonymity, that Russia will rely heavily on artillery strikes to destroy Ukrainian positions while deploying ground forces from multiple directions.

But Washington also estimates that many Russian units are exhausted, with some operating at personnel losses of up to 30 percent – a level considered too high by the US military to continue fighting indefinitely.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, visiting Moscow yesterday, said he was ready to fully mobilize the organization’s resources to save lives and evacuate people from the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol.

Mr Guterres, who is due to visit Kyiv tomorrow, proposed a “Humanitarian Contact Group” of Russia, Ukraine and UN officials to explore ways “for opening safe corridors with a local cessation of hostilities and to ensure they are actually effective.” are “.

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Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine Iryna Vereshchuk said no corridors were operational yesterday due to fighting. (© PA/Telegraph Media Group Ltd 2022)

Telegraph Media Group Limited [2022] Russian attacks on bridges and rail structures indicate a change in strategy

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