Following the sinking of its flagship in the Black Sea, Russia vowed on Friday to intensify its attacks on kyiv in response to attacks it calls “terrorist,” the first against the maker of the Neptune missiles that the Ukrainians say have sunk the “Moskva”.
“Le name et l’ampleur des frappes de missiles sur des sites de kyiv vont augmenter in reply to all attacks of a terrorist type and aux sabotages menés en territoire russe par le régime nationaliste de kyiv”, my en garde le ministère russe de the defense.
Overnight, a missile factory in the kyiv region was hit by a Russian attack, AFP journalists at the scene said on Friday.
The Russian Ministry for its part has announced the destruction of a missile production workshop at the Vizar factory located on the outskirts of kyiv.
The Vizar factory is one of the Ukrainian factories that manufactures these missiles, says on its website UkrOboronProm, the state holding company that oversees Ukrainian weapons factories.
A factory workshop and an adjoining administrative building, located in the town of Vyshnevé, about thirty kilometers southwest of the Ukrainian capital, were seriously damaged, AFP reported. About fifty vehicles parked in the nearby parking lot also had their windows blown.
– “the Moskva bill” –
One craftsman, Andrii Sizov, 47, told AFP he had heard “five knocks”. “For me, this is the bill for the destruction of Moskva,” he said.
Russia has so far claimed that the Moskva cruiser, the flagship of its Black Sea Fleet, suffered a fire and detonations of its own ammunition on Wednesday. The ship sank on Thursday.
The Ukrainians claimed to have attacked the ship with domestically made Neptune cruise missiles, inflicting a major setback and humiliation on the Russian military.
Russia also said Thursday that Ukraine had bombed Russian border villages, including a helicopter gunship raid on Russian territory.
kyiv rejected these accusations, instead accusing Russian special services of carrying out “terrorist attacks” in the border region to fuel “anti-Ukrainian hysteria”.
The Russian Investigative Committee claimed that two Ukrainian helicopters ‘equipped with heavy weapons’ entered Russia and carried out ‘at least six attacks on apartment buildings in the village of Klimovo’ in the Bryansk region.
Seven people, including a baby, were injured “to varying degrees,” according to these Russian accusations, the validity of which is impossible to independently verify.
– Shots fired at civilian evacuation buses –
Ukraine’s prosecutor general’s office said on Friday that seven civilians were killed and 27 wounded Thursday by Russian gunfire at evacuation buses in the eastern Kharkiv region.
In the Kherson region (south), a new exchange of Russian and Ukrainian prisoners of war took place on Thursday, the Ukrainian army announced on Friday.
Russia also claimed to have killed around 30 “Polish mercenaries” in an attack in northeastern Ukraine.
In addition, Moscow on Friday warned Sweden and Finland against NATO membership of Sweden and Finland, which would have “consequences” for these countries and European security.
Helsinki and Stockholm are considering joining the Atlantic Alliance in reaction to the Russian military offensive against Ukraine.
– “Hard hit” –
The loss of the Moskva cruiser is “a serious blow” to the Russian fleet in the region, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said on Thursday, with “consequences for its combat capabilities.”
The ship “provided air cover for the other ships during their operations, in particular the shelling of the coast and the landing maneuvers,” said the spokesman for the Odessa regional military administration Sergei Bratchouk.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky made the point in a video message Thursday night, saying the Ukrainians had “proved that Russian ships can only go to the bottom.”
Military setbacks in Ukraine could prompt Russian President Vladimir Putin to resort to a low-yield or tactical nuclear weapon in that country, William Burns, head of the CIA, the top US intelligence agency, warned on Thursday.
But “we haven’t really seen any concrete signs like military deployments or measures that could add to our concerns,” he insisted.
Translating into words the level of extreme hostility reached in this conflict, as well as the seriousness of the atrocities attributed to the Russian forces, the Ukrainian Parliament voted on Thursday a resolution that describes the Russian offensive as “genocide”.
– ‘Thousands of tanks’ –
In the largest region of Donbass, Donetsk, where “fighting is taking place on the entire front line”, three people were killed and seven were wounded, according to the Ukrainian presidency.
The other region of this mining basin, Lugansk, was the scene of 24 bombardments that left two dead and two wounded, according to the same source.
Russia, whose announced massive offensive in Donbass has not yet started, is fighting to gain full control of Mariupol, a strategic port on the Sea of Azov.
Since the beginning of the war, President Zelensky has remained entrenched with his administration in the center of the capital, from where he has not stopped demanding deliveries of heavy weapons from the West that are needed to resist the firepower of the Russians.
“Russia has brought thousands of tanks, artillery pieces and all kinds of heavy weapons to the region, simply hoping to crush our army,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Thursday.
– “Scorched” –
US President Joe Biden finally agreed to Ukraine’s request on Wednesday, promising $800 million in massive new military aid, including armor and long-range weapons.
It is in Mariupol (southeast) where the greatest number of human victims of this war could be registered in the immediate future. The Ukrainian authorities have mentioned some 20,000 deaths.
The martyr port city, which AFP was able to visit during a press trip organized this week by the Russian army, suffered a deluge of fires, which devastated the infrastructure and homes of half a million people who lived there when Vladimir Putin launched his offensive against Ukraine on February 24.
Galina Vassilieva, 78, pointed to a completely burned-out nine-story building. “People are burned inside,” says this retiree, queuing up in front of a truck of pro-Russian separatists delivering humanitarian aid.
Today, after more than forty days, the fighting is confined to the vast industrial zone near the coast, as Russian forces and their separatist allies in Donetsk have imposed and then gradually tightened their terrible siege.
The conquest of this city would allow the Russians to consolidate their territorial gains by uniting the Donbass region, partly controlled by pro-Russian separatists since 2014, with Crimea annexed that same year.
Analysts say Russian President Vladimir Putin, mired in fierce Ukrainian resistance, wants to secure a victory in Donbass ahead of the May 9 military parade in Red Square marking the Soviet victory over the Nazis in 1945.