KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — The Russian military said on Wednesday it used long-range missiles to destroy a depot in Ukraine’s western Lviv region where ammunition for NATO-supplied weapons was stored, and the governor from a key eastern town recognized Russian forces are advancing in heavy fighting.
The Battle of Sievierodonetsk in Ukraine’s Donbass region has become the focus 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.
Russian officials had a day earlier announced a humanitarian corridor from the Azot plant, but said they would take civilians to areas controlled by Russian, not Ukrainian, forces.
Ukrainian Lugansk Governor Serhiy Haidai told The Associated Press that “heavy fighting in Sievierodonetsk also continues today.” The Lugansk and Donetsk regions form the Donbass.
The situation in the city is worsening, Haidai said, as Russian forces have more manpower and more weapons. “But our military is holding back the enemy from three sides at once,” he added.
In the Lviv region, near the border with NATO member Poland, Russian forces used high-precision Kalibr missiles to destroy the depot near the town of Zolochiv, the ministry spokesman said. Defense Russian, Igor Konashenkov. Konashenkov said shells for M777 howitzers, a type supplied by the United States, were stored there. He said four howitzers were destroyed elsewhere and that Russian airstrikes also destroyed Ukrainian “aircraft equipment” at a military airfield in the southern region of Mykolaiv.
Ukrainian officials did not immediately comment on the Zolochiv strike.
While focusing most of their attacks on eastern Ukraine, where they are trying to capture large swaths of territory, Russian forces have also struck more specific targets elsewhere, using high-precision missiles to disrupt the international arms supply and destroy military infrastructure. Civilian infrastructure was also bombed, although Russian officials said they only targeted military installations.
In the northeastern region of Sumy, the governor said two helicopters from neighboring Russian territory fired five missiles on Wednesday evening around the town of Hlukhiv. A residential building was hit, killing one person and injuring six, and other infrastructure was damaged, Governor Dmytro Zhyvytskyy said on Telegram.
Early Thursday, loud explosions were heard in the city of Sumy as air raid sirens sounded, and the mayor urged residents to stay in bomb shelters and not release any information about what was hit .
NATO members pledge to send more longer-range weapons to Ukraine.
President Joe Biden said Wednesday the United States would send an additional $1 billion in military aid, the largest tranche of arms and equipment since the war began. The aid will include anti-ship missile launchers, howitzers and more rounds for high-mobility artillery rocket systems – all key weapon systems Ukraine’s leadership has urgently requested.
Germany is supplying Ukraine with three multiple-launch rocket systems of the type that Kyiv has said it urgently needs to defend against the Russian invasion. Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht said on Wednesday that Germany would transfer three M270 medium-range artillery rocket systems along with ammunition.
Germany said the transfer, which echoes similar moves by Britain and the United States, will be accompanied by training and will have “a rapid and significant impact on the battlefield”.
In recent days, Ukrainian officials have spoken of the heavy human cost of the war, with Kyiv’s forces outnumbered and outgunned in the east.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanked Biden for the new aid package.
“The security support from the United States is unprecedented,” he said, referring to a phone call the two leaders had earlier Wednesday. “This brings us closer to a common victory over the Russian aggressor.”
Zelenskyy said he had accepted invitations to speak at NATO and Group of Seven summits later this month.
“During the 112 days of this war, the Ukrainian army has proven that courage and wisdom on the battlefield, as well as the ability to tactically outwit the enemy, can have a significant result, even despite the advantage significant part of the Russian army in terms of troop numbers and equipment,” he said in his nightly video address.
“Of course, we are doing everything we can to overcome this advantage. Every day I fight for Ukraine to receive the weapons and equipment we need.”
Meanwhile, Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chairman of the Russian Security Council, has ominously hinted that Russia intends not only to claim territory, but also to eliminate Ukraine as a nation. In a Telegram article, he wrote that he saw that 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?”
Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Zelenskyy, responded on Twitter: “Ukraine has been and will be. Where will Medvedev be in two years? That’s the question.
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— Russia Economic Forum takes place but with fewer participants
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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 Russian attacks.
Cavusoglu told reporters that since the location of the mines is known, it would be possible to establish “safe corridors” that avoid them. Turkey, Russia and Ukraine have appointed military officers and set up a hotline to try to overcome barriers to crop exports.
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric hailed Cavusoglu’s comments as “extremely positive” but declined to discuss the plan.
A UN delegation investigating war crimes in Ukraine has visited areas of the country held by Russian troops and found evidence that could support 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 the 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 probing the same events repeatedly.
Karmanau reported from Lviv.
Follow AP coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine