Lviv, Ukraine (AFP) – Russia complains that the West is “stuffing Ukraine with weapons” bombed railway stations and other supply line targets across the country, as the European Union moved to punish Moscow for war on Wednesday by proposing Ban on importing oil.
Fierce fighting too raged at the Azovstal steel plant In Mariupol, which represented the last stronghold of the Ukrainian resistance in The ruins of the southern coastal cityAccording to the mayor. A Russian official denied that Russian forces had stormed the facility, but the commander of the main Ukrainian military unit inside said Russian forces had stormed the factory grounds.
The Russian military also said it used sea and air-launched missiles to destroy electrical power facilities at five railway stations across Ukraine, while artillery and aircraft also bombed troop strongholds and fuel and ammunition depots.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba accused Russia of “using the tactics of missile terrorism in order to spread fear throughout Ukraine.”
Sirens sounded in cities across the country on Wednesday night, and attacks were reported near Kyiv, the capital; in Cherkasy and Dnipro in central Ukraine; And in Zaporizhzhia in the southeast. Authorities in Dnipro said a railway facility had been bombed. Videos on social media indicated that a bridge there had been attacked.
There were no immediate reports of casualties or damages.
“All these crimes will be answered, legally and practically – on the battlefield,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in response to the strikes in his nightly video address.
The spree of attacks It comes as Russia prepares to celebrate Victory Day on May 9, marking the Soviet Union’s defeat of Nazi Germany. The world is watching whether Russian President Vladimir Putin will seize the opportunity to declare victory in Ukraine or expand what he calls a “special military operation.”
A declaration of all-out war would allow Putin to impose martial law and mobilize reservists to make up for heavy troop losses.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissed the speculation as “nonsense”.
Meanwhile, Belarus, which Russia used as a springboard for its invasion, announced the start of military exercises on Wednesday. A senior Ukrainian official said his country would be ready to act if Belarus joined the fight.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov said the attacks on rail infrastructure were aimed at disrupting Western arms deliveries. Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said the West was “stuffing Ukraine with weapons”.
A senior US defense official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the Pentagon assessment, said that while the Russians attempted to strike critical infrastructure around the western city of Lviv, specifically targeting railroads, there was no “measurable impact” on Ukraine’s efforts to resupply its forces. . Lviv, close to the Polish border, was a major gateway to weapons supplied by NATO.
a weapon The influx into Ukraine helped its forces thwart Russia’s initial attempt to seize Kyiv and appears certain to play a central role in the growing battle for Donbass, the eastern industrial region that Moscow now says is its main target.
Ukraine has urged the West to step up arms supplies before this potentially decisive clash. German Chancellor Olaf Schultz, who was initially slow to help arm Ukraine, said his government was considering supplying howitzers, as well as Gibbard anti-aircraft guns and other equipment that it had agreed to send.
The governor of the eastern Donetsk region, which is located in Donbass, said Russian attacks left 21 people dead on Tuesday, the highest known death toll since April 8, when a missile attack on a railway station in Kramatorsk killed at least 59 people.
In addition to supplying arms to Ukraine, Europe and the United States have sought to punish Moscow with sanctions. The European Union’s top official called the 27-nation bloc on Wednesday to ban Russian oil imports, An important source of income.
“We will make sure that Russian oil is phased out in an orderly manner, in a way that allows us and our partners to secure alternative supply routes and minimize the impact on global markets,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told the European Parliament. in Strasbourg, France.
The proposal needs unanimous approval from EU countries and is likely to be the subject of heated debate. Hungary and Slovakia have already said they will not participate in any oil sanctions. They can be granted an exemption.
The European Union is also talking about a ban on Russian natural gas. The bloc has already agreed to cut coal imports.
The Russian economy is highly dependent on oil and natural gas exports. Kuleba, Ukraine’s foreign minister, said European purchases of Russian energy generate billions of dollars in revenue and support the Kremlin’s “war machine”.
Von der Leyen also proposed separating Sberbank, Russia’s largest bank, and two other major banks from the international bank payment system SWIFT.
In Mariupol, Mayor Vadim Boychenko said that Russian forces were targeting the already destroyed Azovstal plant with heavy artillery, tanks, planes, warships and “heavy concrete-piercing bombs 3 to 5 meters thick”.
“Our brave men are defending this fortress, but it is very difficult,” he said.
On Tuesday, Ukrainian fighters said that Russian forces had begun storming the factory. But the Kremlin said this was not true. “There is no assault,” Peskov said.
Denis Prokopenko, commander of the Ukrainian Azov Regiment defending the plant, said that Russian forces stormed the factory grounds.
Prokopenko said in a video clip that the incursions continued for the second day, and “there are violent bloody battles.”
“The situation is very difficult, but despite everything, we continue to implement the defense order,” he added.
“We don’t want them to die. They will not surrender. They are waiting for the bravest countries to evacuate them,” his wife, Katerina Prokopenko, told The Associated Press.
Meanwhile, the United Nations announced that more than 300 civilians were evacuated Wednesday from Mariupol and other nearby communities. The evacuees arrived in Zaporozhye, about 140 miles (230 kilometers) northwest, where they were receiving humanitarian aid.
“Many came with nothing but the clothes they were wearing, and we will now support them during this difficult time, including much-needed psychological support,” said Osnat Lubrani, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Ukraine.
Over the weekend, more than 100 people – including women, the elderly and 17 children – were evacuated from the factory during the ceasefire in an operation overseen by the United Nations and the Red Cross. But the attacks on the factory soon resumed.
The Russian government said on messaging app Telegram that it will open another evacuation corridor from the factory during certain hours from Thursday to Saturday. But there was no immediate confirmation of these arrangements from other parties, and many previous assurances from the Kremlin have been retracted, with Ukrainians blaming continued fighting by the Russians.
It is not clear how many Ukrainian fighters are still inside, but the Russians have put the number at around 2,000 in recent weeks, and 500 have reportedly been wounded. The Ukrainian side said that a few hundred civilians remained there.
Mariupol, and the plant in particular, have come to symbolize the misery caused by the war. The Russians destroyed most of the city in a two-month siege, besieging civilians with little food, water, medicine, and heat.
The fall of the city would deprive Ukraine of a vital port, allow Russia to establish a land corridor into Crimea, which it seized from Ukraine in 2014, and free up forces to fight elsewhere in Donbas.
Anna reported from Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine. Associated Press reporters Ysica Fisch in Zaporizhia, Inna Varenytsya and David Keaton in Kyiv, Juras Karmanau in Lviv, Mstislav Chernov in Kharkiv, Lolita C. Baldur in Washington, and AP staff around the world contributed to this report.
Follow the Associated Press’ coverage of the war in Ukraine: https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine