Russia has unleashed a series of attacks on Ukrainian rail and oil facilities, hitting crucial infrastructure far from the front line of its eastern offensive.
Meanwhile, two fires have been reported at oil facilities in western Russia, not far from the Ukrainian border. It is not known what caused the fires.
As both sides in the war brace for what could be a tough battle of attrition in the industrial heartland of the country’s east, senior US officials have pledged more help to secure Ukraine’s victory .
During a bold visit to Kyiv to meet President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Sunday, the US Secretaries of State and Defense said Washington had approved a $165 million (€154 million) ammunition sale – non-American munitions, primarily if not entirely to equip the Ukrainian Soviet Union. weapons of the time – as well as more than $300 million (280 million euros) 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 was having “real results”.
“As far as Russia’s war aims are concerned, Russia is failing. Ukraine is succeeding,” he added.
The United States promised on Monday to reopen its embassy in kyiv soon.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba welcomed US support but said that “as long as Russian soldiers set foot on Ukrainian soil, nothing will be enough.”
Mr Kuleba warned that if Western powers want Ukraine to win the war and ‘stop Putin in Ukraine and not allow him to go further, deeper into Europe’, then countries must speed up arms delivery requested by Ukraine.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused the United States and its allies of trying to “divide Russian society and destroy Russia from within”.
Anatoly Antonov, Russia’s ambassador to the United States, said the arms shipments were meant to weaken Russia, but escalated the conflict in Ukraine while undermining efforts to reach some kind of peace deal.
“What the Americans are doing is pouring oil on the flames,” Mr Antonov told Rossiya 24 TV. the situation, to see more casualties.”
Antonov, who has been ambassador to Washington since 2017, said an official diplomatic note had been sent to Washington expressing Russia’s concerns. No response was given, Mr Antonov said.
“We underlined the unacceptability of this situation when the United States of America dumps weapons in Ukraine, and we demanded an end to this practice,” Antonov said.
When Russia invaded on February 24, its apparent objective was the quick takeover of kyiv and perhaps the overthrow of its government. But the Ukrainians, with the aid of Western weapons, bogged down Mr Putin’s troops and thwarted their push towards kyiv.
Moscow now says its goal is the capture of the predominantly Russian-speaking Donbass region to the east. While both sides have said the campaign in the east is underway, Russia has yet to mount an all-out ground offensive and achieve no major breakthroughs.
Ukrainian troops holed up in a steelworks in the strategic town of Mariupol pin down Russian forces and apparently prevent them from being added to the offensive elsewhere in Donbass.
Over the weekend, Russian forces launched fresh airstrikes on the factory in a bid to dislodge the roughly 2,000 fighters. Some 1,000 civilians were also sheltering in the steelworks, and the Russian military pledged to open a humanitarian corridor for them to leave.
The Russian offer was met with skepticism by Ukraine. Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said on the Telegram messaging app that Ukraine does not consider the route safe and added that Russia has previously violated agreements on similar evacuation routes. She called on the United Nations to oversee an evacuation.
Mariupol has endured heavy fighting since the start of the war due to its strategic location on the Sea of Azov. In addition to freeing 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 striking far behind the front lines, with the apparent aim of slowing the movement of Ukrainian supplies east and disrupting the flow of fuel. necessary for the country’s forces.
Oleksandr Kamyshin, the head of Ukraine’s state-run railways, said five railway facilities in central and western Ukraine were hit on Monday. This included a missile attack near the western city of Lviv.
Ukrainian authorities said at least five people were killed by Russian strikes in the central region of Vynnytsia.
Russia also destroyed an oil refinery in Kremenchuk, central Ukraine, as well as fuel depots, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov said. In total, Russian warplanes destroyed 56 Ukrainian targets overnight, he said.
Phillips P O’Brien, professor of strategic studies at the University of St Andrews, said war is settling, for now, in a campaign of losses and further gains on the battlefield.
“Both sides are getting weaker every day,” he said. “So it’s a question of what new can you bring” and “what can you 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, the Russian Emergencies Ministry said. No cause was given for the fire. Photos showed a huge bubbling plume of thick smoke.
The Bryansk oil depot is owned by a subsidiary of Russian state-owned Transneft, which operates the Druzhba pipeline that transports crude west to other European countries. The ministry said the fire damaged a depot containing diesel fuel. He said the area had enough diesel for 15 days.
It was unclear whether the depot was part of the pipeline infrastructure, but Polish pipeline operator Pern said deliveries to Poland were not affected.
Another oil storage facility in Bryansk also caught fire on Monday, according to a Russian report.
Last month, two Ukrainian helicopter gunships struck an oil depot in the Russian region of Belgorod, near the Ukrainian border.
In a video address on Monday, Mr. Zelenskiy described his meeting with Mr. Blinken and US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin as “encouraging and, above all, effective”.
The Ukrainian leader added that they agreed “on new measures to strengthen the armed forces of Ukraine and meet all the priority needs of our army”.
With Russia’s shift in focus to Donbass, Zelenskiy is now focusing on heavier weapons, such as tanks and artillery.
“We want to see Ukraine remain a sovereign country, a democratic country capable of protecting its sovereign territory,” Austin said. “We want to see Russia weakened to the point where it can no longer do things like invade Ukraine.” –AP/Reuters