Russia Pounds Ukraine With Deadly ‘Retaliation’ Strikes

Russia on Thursday targeted Ukraine with a barrage of missiles in strikes which Moscow said were in response to a border incursion earlier this month.

Ukraine said it downed nearly half of the missiles launched by Russia over at least 10 regions, with fighting raging in eastern Bakhmut.

The conflict has revived tensions in the neighboring pro-Russian separatist region of Transnistria in Moldova, where Moscow-backed authorities accused Ukraine of plotting a “terror attack.”

“In response to the March 2 terrorist actions organized by the Kyiv regime in the Bryansk region, Russia’s Armed Forces dealt a massive retaliation strike,” the Defense Ministry said, adding that it had used the lauded Kinzhal hypersonic missile.

The ministry was referring to claims that Ukrainian nationalists had crossed into the southern Bryansk region and killed two civilians, which Kyiv dismissed as a provocation.

The Russian barrage on Thursday struck the relatively peaceful Lviv region in Ukraine’s west, causing the first civilian deaths there in a long time, and left the country’s second city of Kharkiv in the northeast without power, water or heating.

“The enemy fired 81 missiles in an attempt to intimidate Ukrainians again, returning to their miserable tactics,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said.

‘Very scary’

For months Russia has been pummelling key infrastructure facilities in Ukraine with missiles and drones — disrupting water, heating and electricity supplies for millions of people.

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said two people were injured, and 40 percent of the population were without heating following explosions in two areas of the Ukrainian capital.

On Prospekt Peremogy, or Victory Prospect, in the west of Kyiv, three cars parked near a high-rise apartment building were charred and the ground was littered with shattered glass from windows, an AFP reporter saw. 

“I’d seen (the missile) flying towards my block of flats and when I got there I saw a big fire. My car was on fire. The flames were powerful and it was pointless to try to save the car,” said local resident Igor Yezhov, 60, a car dealer who was walking in a park at the time of the strikes. 

“I was very scared, of course, although we have quite a solid building, made of reinforced concrete. All the same it was frightening.” 

Three others were killed when shelling hit a bus stop in the southern city of Kherson, said Andriy Yermak, the presidential chief of staff.

Five people died in Ukraine’s western Lviv, and a 34-year-old man died in the eastern city of Dnipropetrovsk, local authorities said.

‘Countdown’ began

Ukraine’s nuclear energy operator said the strikes had also cut off the electricity supply to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which is controlled by Russian forces and is Europe’s largest.

The operator said it was the sixth time that the facility had been disconnected from the electricity grid since it was taken over, and it is now operating on diesel generators which have an autonomy of 10 days.

“The countdown has begun. If it is impossible to renew the external power supply of the station during this time, an accident with radiation consequences for the whole world may occur,” Energoatom said.

The Russian occupation authorities said it had “enough fuel reserves to ensure the operation of generators.”

The UN nuclear agency (IAEA) chief Rafael Grossi also warned of the danger of repeated power outages at the plant, saying “each time we are rolling a dice.”

There were also strikes reported on energy plants in several other parts of Ukraine, including Kharkiv in the northeast and the region of Odesa in the southwest.

Kharkiv city’s residents remained without electricity after the strikes, with some supplies expected to be restored within a few hours, according to Mayor Ihor Terekhov.

Transnistria claims

On the ground, Russia reported gains in the battle for the industrial city of Bakhmut, which has been the focus of months of fierce combat. 

Russia’s Wagner mercenary group, which has spearheaded the attack on Bakhmut, claimed on Wednesday to have captured the eastern part of the city.

“We cannot rule out that Bakhmut may eventually fall in the coming days,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on the sidelines of an EU defense ministers meeting on Wednesday.

The head of the U.S.-led military alliance added that “this does not necessarily reflect any turning point of the war.”

Poland said Thursday it had delivered Ukraine a further 10 Leopard tanks while allies would deliver more “very soon.”

Local authorities said they thwarted “a terror attack… directed by Ukrainian security services, being prepared against a number of officials.”

Since the beginning of the offensive the Kremlin has been accused of raising tensions in Transnistria, a separatist region in eastern Moldova where Russia maintains troops.

Ukraine denied the claims as a “provocation orchestrated by the Kremlin” while Moldova’s government said it was investigating the claim, but could not yet confirm it.




Arab Observer

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