Russia hits rail and oil facilities in attacks deep in Ukraine

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 .

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.

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.

(PA graphics)

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.

Britain has said it believes 15,000 Russian troops have been killed in Ukraine since Moscow began its invasion. Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said that 25% of Russian combat units sent to Ukraine “have been rendered non-combat effective”, and that Russia has lost more than 2,000 armored vehicles and more than 60 helicopters and fighter.

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US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office/AP)

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.

Smoke rises from fire-hit oil storage facilities in Bryansk, Russia
Smoke rises from fire-hit oil storage facilities in Bryansk, Russia (Anonymous source via AP)

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 there, 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.

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.

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr had urged Americans not to leave empty-handed (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office/AP)

In a video address on Monday, Mr Zelensky 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, Zelensky is now focusing on heavier weapons, such as tanks and artillery.

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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken boards a plane to return to Washington (Alex Brandon/Pool/AP)

In a boost for Ukraine, French President Emmanuel Macron comfortably won a second term on Sunday over far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, who pledged to loosen France’s ties with the EU. Europe and NATO.

Ms Le Pen had spoken out against EU sanctions on Russian energy and had come under scrutiny during the campaign because of her previous friendship with the Kremlin.

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