Strikes in Ukraine could slow Russia’s progress

KYIV, Ukraine – Ukraine’s military extended the fight deeper into Russian-controlled territory on Friday, as it clarified its strategy of trying to degrade Moscow’s combat capabilities by attacking ammunition depots and supply lines in the occupied Crimea and other areas where the Kremlin has long been. considered safe.

Crimea, a key garrison for the Russian invasion, has been under the Kremlin’s control since it was illegally annexed by Moscow in 2014. But it has been rocked by a number of attacks. recent attacks, some carried out by Ukrainian fighters secretly operating behind enemy lines. Oleksiy Danilov, head of Ukraine’s national security council, said on Friday that Kyiv would target sites in Crimea as part of a “step-by-step demilitarization of the peninsula with demilitarization”. afterward”.

From night to Friday, explosions occurred at a military airport outside Sevastopol, the largest city in Crimea and home to Russia’s Black Sea Fleet; The Russians later said that these explosions were the sound of successful anti-aircraft fire. Loud explosions were also reported above the Kerch Strait bridge, the only land route connecting Russia to Crimea. There appears to be no damage to the bridge, and Russia says those explosions were also the result of anti-aircraft fire.

According to the regional governor, Vyacheslav Gladkov, a large fire also broke out at a Russian ammunition depot, in the Belgorod border region, forcing the evacuation of two villages.

Russian officials acknowledged the explosions at the site and said they were investigating the cause.

It remains unclear whether Ukraine’s recent activity in Russian-held territory is merely an isolated flare-up or, as Ukrainian officials have said, the first stage of a sustained effort to reduce Russian military capabilities.

It is also not clear that even a successful sabotage campaign can overcome the overwhelming superiority of numbers and weapons of the Russian army. Russia suffered a humiliating defeat in northern Ukraine in the early days of the war, but was able to regroup and launch an offensive east through Luhansk province and is still inching forward.

Paula J. Dobrianky, a former US diplomat specializing in national security affairs, said that by threatening Russia’s supply lines and underlining Moscow’s persistent grip on Crimea, the The air strike in Crimea was “both operational and symbolic”.

Christopher Miller, an associate professor of international history at the Fletcher School of Tufts University, said the attacks could also have been a deliberate strategy not only to disrupt Russia’s supply and logistics routes but even put war back on Russia’s domestic political agenda.

“The Russian position is that Crimea is a closed issue, and while the fact that Russia had control is practically untenable, that is no longer the case,” he said. . “Certainly Ukraine is not threatening to retake Crimea immediately, but Ukraine has shown that the region is very vulnerable to attack,” he added.

The explosions come amid heightened tensions around the vast Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in southeastern Ukraine, Europe’s largest, where Russia and Ukraine accuse each other of planning an attack that could lead to a nuclear disaster. core.

Russian President Vladimir V. Putin, in his first public address about the battles that broke out around the nuclear complex, on Friday accused the Ukrainian military of risking “a catastrophe of the magnitude” large scale” by shelling the factory.

The comments, interpreted by the Kremlin’s website, were made during a phone call initiated by French President Emmanuel Macron.

The Kremlin said the two presidents agreed to work towards hosting a visit by a delegation from the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog. Ukraine has also said that it will welcome an IAEA delegation. On Friday, the IAEA said it was “in active consultation with all parties” to send the inspector “as soon as possible”. But it remains unclear how the visit will be organized amid intense fighting in the region.

Ukraine on Friday raised new concerns about another safety issue at the Zaporizhzhia plant, warning that Russia was preparing to disconnect the plant’s power lines from Ukraine’s power grid. The complex and potentially risky process could strip government-controlled territories of power and redirect it to Crimea and Russia.

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The Russians will have to shut down the reactors at the plant to reroute the power. That means power to keep the cooling systems running at the plant will come from diesel generators, increasing the risk of an accident at a facility where workers are operating. Lack of seriousness.

During a visit to the Ukrainian city of Odesa on Friday, António Guterres, the United Nations Secretary-General, said that a recent agreement to allow grain shipments to flow from the Black Sea port is a symbol of what the world is all about. can be achieved when nations work together for the common good.

But Mr. Guterres also expressed concern that Russia may be preparing to cut power lines at the Zaporizhzhia plant.

“Obviously, Zaporizhzhia electricity is Ukraine’s electricity, and it is necessary, especially in winter, for the Ukrainian people, and this principle must be fully respected,” he said. Mr. Guterres has called for a demilitarized zone around the plant – an idea Russia has rejected.

Ukraine’s statement about Russia’s intentions could not be independently verified and Moscow was not immediately available for comment.

As the six-month war nears its end, the Pentagon on Friday announced a $775 million shipment of new weapons and equipment to help Ukraine launch a counter-offensive against Russian troops in the south.

The latest shipment includes 40 armored vehicles equipped with giant rollers to clear minefields ahead of any Ukrainian operation, as well as 50 Humvee armored personnel carriers, 1,500 TOW missiles and 1,000 missiles. Javelin anti-tank fire.

A senior Defense Department official told reporters: “Clearing demining is a really good example of how the Ukrainians will need this kind of capability to be able to push their forces forward. and recapture the territory.

The package also includes 16 105mm cannons and 36,000 rounds of ammunition, as well as 15 ScanEagle drones to help detect Russian targets. The Ministry of Defense will also continue to send missiles to HIMARS . Launcher allegedly destroyed Russian command posts and ammunition depots.

Currently, the United States has limited the number of 16 HIMARS launchers sent to Ukraine, concerned that more deliveries could deplete the Pentagon’s stockpile of satellite-guided missiles and ultimately cause damage. jeopardize America’s combat readiness.

A senior Pentagon official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss operational issues, declined to comment on attacks and other explosions in Crimea over the past two weeks. But the official seemed to confirm the effectiveness of Ukraine’s recent efforts to thwart Russia’s military efforts.

“Right now, I would say you are seeing a complete lack of progress by the Russians on the battlefield,” the official said. “You’re seeing this emptying Russian forces in Ukraine.”

Pressed by reporters, the official admitted that the Ukrainians had not made much progress either, lacking sufficient numbers and combat strength to dislodge the Russians from their defensive positions.

“We have not seen a significant recapture of the territory, but we do see a significant weakening of Russian positions in many locations,” the official said.

Marc Santora reports from Kyiv, Ukraine, Eric Schmitt from Washington and Michael Levenson from New York. Report contributed by Neil MacFarquhar from Istanbul and John Ismay from Washington.

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