Russia targets ammunition depot in western Ukraine – Capital Gazette

KYIV, Ukraine – The Russian military said it used long-range missiles on Wednesday to destroy a depot in Ukraine’s western Lviv region where ammunition for NATO-supplied weapons was stored, and the governor of a Eastern key city has acknowledged that Russian forces are advancing amid heavy fighting.

The strikes came as fighting raged for the city of Sievierodonetsk in Ukraine’s Donbass region, at the center of Russia’s offensive in recent weeks.

Russian-backed separatists have accused Ukrainian forces of sabotaging an evacuation of civilians from the beleaguered Azot chemical plant, where around 500 civilians and an unknown number of Ukrainian fighters are said to be safe from missile attacks. It was not possible to verify this claim.

A humanitarian corridor from the Azot plant had been announced the day before by Russian officials, who said they would take civilians to areas controlled by Russian, not Ukrainian, forces.

Many previously announced planned evacuations from other combat zones in Ukraine have failed, with each side blaming the other. Some Ukrainians have been reluctant to evacuate to Russian-held territory.

Ukrainian Governor of Luhansk Serhiy Haidai told The Associated Press that “heavy fighting in Sievierodonetsk also continues today.” The situation in the city is getting worse, Haidai admitted, as Russian forces have more manpower and more weapons.

“But our army is holding back the enemy from three sides at once,” Haidai said. “The enemy is advancing due to a significant advantage in artillery and personnel, but the Ukrainian army maintains its positions in the city.”

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said Russian forces used high-precision Kalibr missiles to destroy the depot near the town of Zolochiv in the Lviv region, near the border with Russia. Poland, member of NATO.

Konashenkov said shells for M777 howitzers, a type supplied by the United States, were stored there. He said four howitzers were destroyed elsewhere in the fighting and that Russian airstrikes also destroyed Ukrainian “aircraft equipment” at a military airfield in the southern Mykolaiv region.

There was no immediate comment on Zolochiv’s strike from the Ukrainians.

While focusing most of their attacks on eastern Ukraine, where they are trying to seize large swaths of territory, Russian forces have also struck more specific targets elsewhere in the country, using high-powered missiles. precision to disrupt the international arms supply and destroy the military. Infrastructure.

Civilian infrastructure was also bombed, although Russian officials said they only targeted military installations.

The latest attacks have come as Ukraine maintains pressure on Western countries to deliver more weapons and NATO countries promise Ukraine more heavy weapons.

In recent days, Ukrainian officials have spoken of the heavy human cost of the war, with fierce fighting in the east becoming an artillery battle that has seen kyiv’s forces outgunned and outnumbered.

“The losses, unfortunately, are painful, but we have to hold on,” Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address on Tuesday evening. “The more the enemy suffers losses there, the less force he will have to continue the aggression. Therefore, the Donbass is key in determining who will dominate in the coming weeks. »

Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Zelenskyy, tweeted on Wednesday that he received a daily message from Ukrainian defenders in the east saying: “We are holding on, just say: when to expect arms? He said that’s the same message he’s giving to NATO leaders.

Meanwhile, Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chairman of the Russian Security Council and former Russian president, has ominously suggested that Russia seems determined not just to claim territory, but to eliminate Ukraine as a nation.

In a Telegram article, he wrote that he had seen reports in which Ukraine wanted to receive liquefied natural gas from its “foreign masters” with payment due in two years.

He added: “But there is a question. Who said that in two years Ukraine will even exist on the map?

Reacting to Medvedev’s comments, Podolyak said on Twitter: “Ukraine has been and will be. Where will Medvedev be in two years, that is the question.

In other developments:

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said it might be possible to create secure corridors to transport Ukrainian grain across the Black Sea without the need to demine the sea near Ukrainian ports.

Cavusoglu’s comments on Wednesday came a week after he discussed with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov a UN plan to open Ukraine’s other ports of Odessa and the Black Sea to allow the shipment of millions of tonnes of grain to world markets.

Russia has demanded that Ukraine remove mines from the Black Sea before grain exports can resume by ship. Ukraine rejects the proposal, insisting it would leave its ports vulnerable to attack.

Cavusoglu told reporters that since the location of the mines is known, it would be possible to establish “safe corridors” that avoid them.

Turkey’s Defense Ministry said Turkey, Russia and Ukraine have appointed high-ranking military officers and set up a hotline to try to overcome barriers to crop exports.

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Russia’s Gazprom announced a cut in natural gas flows through a key European pipeline for the second straight day on Wednesday, hours after Germany’s vice chancellor said his initial decision appeared to be political rather than the result of technical issues.

The state-owned energy giant said on Twitter that deliveries through the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline to Germany would be reduced again on Thursday, bringing the overall reduction through the undersea gas pipeline to 60%.

The new cut came a day after Gazprom announced it would cut flows by 40% after Canadian sanctions over the war in Ukraine prevented German partner Siemens Energy from delivering overhauled equipment. He blamed the same problem for the further reduction.

Gazprom also told Italian gas giant Eni it would cut gas through another pipeline by around 15% on Wednesday. The reason for the reduction was not specified and the Italian company said it was monitoring the situation.

The reduction in flows follows the previous halt to natural gas supplies from Russia to Bulgaria, Poland, Finland, the Netherlands and Denmark as Europe strives to reduce its dependence with regard to Russian energy in the midst of the war in Ukraine. Gas demand plummeted after the end of the winter heating season, but European utilities are racing to fill storage before next winter with high prices and uncertain supplies.

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A UN delegation investigating war crimes in Ukraine has visited areas of the country that were held by Russian troops and says there is evidence that could support the war crimes allegations.

The delegation headed by Erik Møse, a Norwegian judge, visited sites, including the Kyiv suburbs of Bucha and Irpin, where Ukrainian authorities have accused Russia of mass killings of civilians.

“At this stage, we are not in a position to draw any factual conclusions or comment on issues of legal determination of events,” Møse said.

“However, subject to further confirmation, the information received and the destruction sites visited may support claims that serious violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, amounting to war crimes and crimes against humanity, have been committed in these areas,” he said.

As Ukrainian and international organizations investigate war crimes cases, Møse expressed concern about the risk of investigations “overlapping” or causing further trauma to witnesses by revisiting the same events over and over.

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The West must step up arms deliveries to Ukraine and prove its commitment to helping the country’s military fight along a 1,000 kilometer (620 mile) front line in a bitter war of attrition with the Russia, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said on Wednesday.

Opening a meeting of NATO defense ministers in Brussels on support for Ukraine, Austin urged more than 45 participating nations to demonstrate “our unwavering determination to provide Ukraine with the capabilities it urgently needs to to defend oneself”.

“We must step up our common commitment to Ukraine’s self-defense, and we must push ourselves even harder to ensure that Ukraine can defend itself, its citizens and its territory,” he said.

Increased arms supplies cannot come soon enough for Ukrainian forces to fight to prevent Russia from taking control of their country’s industrial east after more than 3.5 months of war.

In his overnight address to the nation, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Tuesday pleaded for more and faster deliveries of Western weapons, including calling for missile defense systems.

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Russia’s war in Ukraine spreads a deadly litter of mines, bombs and other explosives. They kill civilians, disrupt plantations, make it difficult to rebuild homes and villages, and will continue to take lives and limbs long after the fighting is over.

Often the victims of the explosion are farmers and other rural workers who have no choice but to use mined roads and plow mined fields, in a country on which the crops that feed the world depend. .

Vadym Schvydchenko, a 40-year-old driver who hit a tank mine that blew up his truck, said he will avoid dirt roads for the foreseeable future, although they are sometimes the only way to fields and rural settlements. Picking mushrooms in the woods also lost its appeal for him.

“I’m afraid something like this could happen again,” he said.

Ukraine is now one of the most heavily mined countries in Europe. The east of the country, disputed with Russian-backed separatists since 2014, was already contaminated with mines even before the February 24 Russian invasion multiplied the scale and complexity of the dangers there and elsewhere. .

According to Ukraine’s state emergency service, 300,000 square kilometers (115,000 square miles) – the size of Arizona or Italy – need to be cleared. Ongoing fights will only expand the area.

Karmanau reported from Lviv.

Christi C. Elwood