Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 461: Drones hit several buildings in Moscow as fresh wave of Russian airstrikes pound Ukraine

Russia, wary of NATO’s eastward expansion, began a military campaign in Ukraine in February 2022 after the Western-leaning Kiev government turned a deaf ear to Moscow’s calls for its neighbor to maintain its neutrality. In the middle of the mayhem, Moscow and Kiev are trying to hammer out a peaceful solution to the conflict. Follow the latest about the Russia-Ukraine conflict here:

Russia issues arrest warrants for senior Ukrainian commanders after drone attacks

The Russian Interior Ministry has placed two senior Ukrainian figures on its wanted list — hours after a series of drone attacks in the Moscow region:

  • Valery Zaluzhnyi: The commander in chief of Ukraine’s armed forces
  • Alexander Syrskyi: The commander of Ukrainian ground forces

The Investigative Committee of Russia is also investigating Syrskyi and Zaluzhnyi for the shelling of “civilians and civilian facilities in Donbas.”

Putin: Ukraine chose “path of intimidation” with drone attacks

Russian President Vladimir Putin blamed Ukraine for the drone attack in the Moscow region, calling it a “clear sign of terrorist activity.”

“Kyiv chose the path of intimidation of Russian citizens and attacks on residential buildings,” he said, adding, “We are concerned about attempts to evoke a response from Russia. It seems that is what they [Ukraine] want … Kyiv provokes us to mirror actions. We will see what to do about this.”

The Russian president added the city’s air defenses worked normally.

“The Moscow air defense system worked satisfactorily. However, there is still work to be done to make it better,” Putin said in brief remarks carried by Russian state media TASS.

Putin suggested that the drone attacks had been in response to recent Russian strikes against Ukrainian infrastructure.

“The Russian Armed Forces strike exclusively with long-range high-precision weapons and only at military infrastructure facilities. Of course, some portion of these strikes is aimed at the military headquarters as well as headquarters of the Ukrainian military intelligence, which was hit two to three days ago,” he continued.

In just the past few days, Russia has hit a medical facility in Dnipro and launched more than 50 drones at Kyiv.

Ukraine has not commented on any strike against the headquarters of its military intelligence.

NATO chief says there is no sign of Ukraine aid fatigue among Western countries

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said on Tuesday that Western countries are not tiring on providing aid to Ukraine.

During an event in Oslo, Norway, the NATO secretary general stressed that support for Ukraine is being “stepped up.”

“Everyone is on alert for signs of fatigue in our democracies, in NATO countries and partners, in terms of our ability to support. So far, we haven’t seen it,” Stoltenberg continued.

The NATO chief maintained that there is still “strong cross-party support across NATO allies both in Europe and the USA.”

Stoltenberg added that despite having “different voices” and opinions on the issue of support for Ukraine, there remains predominantly a “political will to stand by Ukraine.”

In a news conference last month, Stoltenberg had emphasized that NATO allies were united in supporting Ukraine and would “not be intimidated” from doing so.

Russia threatens “most severe measures” following drone attacks

Russia’s Foreign Ministry announced on Tuesday that it can implement “the most severe measures” after drone attacks on Moscow.

“Russia reserves the right to take the most severe measures in response to the terrorist attacks of the Kyiv regime,” the ministry said in a statement.

“Assurances from NATO officials that the Kyiv regime will not strike deep into Russian territory turn out to be completely hypocritical,” the foreign ministry added.

Ukraine has denied direct involvement with the attack on the Russian capital.

Russian authorities say eight drones were intercepted in the Moscow region. The Investigative Committee of Russia has opened a criminal case on the matter.

EU considers options to use frozen Russian assets as a guarantee that Russia pays for damages

The European Union and its members are considering next steps for frozen Russian assets worth more than 24 billion euros ($25.8 billion), said European Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders on Tuesday.

“We’re trying to see if it’s possible to seize some parts of those assets due to criminal offenses like corruption, money laundering or violation of the sanctions,” and where possible to “go to Justice and to confiscate a part of those assets,” Reynders said ahead of a meeting of EU Ministers in Brussels.

The frozen assets ensure “a real guarantee” that Russia will pay for damages caused by its aggression, he added.

Meanwhile, the Swedish Presidency of the EU is also “working towards new sanctions against Russia” ahead of the June summit of EU Leaders, said Jessika Roswall, minister for European Affairs of Sweden.

Since 2014, the European Union has progressively imposed restrictive measures on Russia over the country’s illegal annexation of Crimea and its war of aggression against Ukraine.

The EU says these measures are designed to curtail Russia’s “ability to wage war.”

In the most recent figures, the EU announced its restrictive measures “now apply to a total of 1,473 individuals and 207 entities,” including Russian President Vladimir Putin, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, as well as the Russian private military company Wagner along with its commanders and boss Yevgeny Prigozhin.

Russian defense minister: West is stepping up supplies to Ukraine

Western countries are sending more supplies of weapons and equipment to Ukraine, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Tuesday.

“Deliveries of equipment and weapons to Ukraine are increasing. We monitor the volumes and routes of supply and, if identified, strike,” Shoigu told a military conference call Tuesday.

Shoigu also claimed Russian forces have intercepted 29 Storm Shadow long-range missiles – supplied to Ukraine by Britain – this month. Ukraine has so far not commented on this.

In recent days, Russia has destroyed large arms depots in Ukraine’s Khmelnytskyi, Ternopil and Mykolaiv regions, Shoigu added. Ukraine said Monday that Russia had attacked warehouses, including a military facility, in the western Khmelnytskyi region overnight. It is rare for Ukraine to publicize attacks on military facilities.

Additionally, the minister claimed that Russia struck a Patriot anti-aircraft missile system in Kyiv in recent days, but he did not specify when.

On May 16, the Russian Defense Ministry had said that one of its Kinzhal missiles had hit a US-made Patriot system in Kyiv during strikes that morning. The Pentagon later confirmed that one Patriot missile battery that was given to Ukraine was damaged by a Russian missile barrage against Kyiv, but that the system has since been fixed. The Patriot is an advanced surface-to-air missile defense system.

Ukraine has received at least two Patriot systems, one from the United States and one from Germany, to enhance its air defenses

“No threat” to Moscow residents following drone attack: Kremlin spokesperson

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said there is currently “no threat” to Moscow’s residents following a drone attack on the capital on Tuesday.

“Thank God, there are no casualties and at present there is no threat to the residents of Moscow and the Moscow region,” Peskov stated.

Peskov added there are no plans for Putin to make an address on the attack.

Asked if additional security measures were needed to prevent such attacks, he said: “I cannot comment on issues of the security of the capital. I can only repeat that the Ministry of Defense worked well, the air defense worked well.”

Two people were injured and buildings were damaged by the attack, according to Russian state media.

Ukrainian foreign minister calls for more air defense systems after spate of attacks on Kyiv

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister, Dmytro Kuleba, has called for more air defense systems following a third night of attacks on Kyiv.

“There can be only one response to each Russian attack aimed to deplete Ukrainian air defense: greater production and supply of air defense systems and ammunition by EU and NATO partners,” Kuleba said.

One person was killed and at least three others were injured as a result of explosions in Kyiv early Tuesday as the city’s air defenses intercepted 20 drones, the Ukrainian military confirmed.

It marks the 17th aerial attack on Kyiv this month, with the Russians varying their assaults with missiles, drones and unmanned aerial vehicles, according to Ukrainian officials.

The drone attacks Tuesday come after Moscow’s forces launched an unusual daytime missile attack on Kyiv Monday that Ukraine’s military said signified a change in Russian tactics.

Wagner chief criticizes Russian Ministry of Defense over alleged Moscow drone attacks

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the Russian private military company Wagner, has launched an expletive-laden tirade at the Russian Ministry of Defense following an alleged drone attack on Moscow on Tuesday.

Prigozhin said in an audio recording on his Telegram channel that he was aware of and concerned about the drone attack.

“As a person who understands this somewhat, I can tell you that many years ago it was necessary to deal with these [drone] programs — that we are now years behind our opponents, years, maybe decades,” he stated in response to a question from a journalist.

The mercenary boss — who has been engaged in a bitter public feud with Russia’s military leadership — said the Russian Ministry of Defense is doing “absolutely nothing at all” to catch up with developments in drone technology.

“Regarding the drones that fly over Moscow and in Moscow — you stinking animals, what are you doing? You are swine! Get up off your asses from the offices you’ve been put in to defend this country,” he said.

“You are the Ministry of Defense. You didn’t do a damn thing to stamp this out,” he continued, claiming he had warned about the threat many times but that officials did nothing to prevent it.

“Why the f** are you allowing these drones to hit Moscow?” he continued, adding, “Let your houses burn.”

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said that Russian President Vladimir Putin had met with officials at the Kremlin following the alleged attack.

Putin’s “working day started very early” and “he received information directly from law enforcement agencies, the Ministry of Emergency Situations, the mayor of Moscow and the governor of the Moscow region”.

“Everyone worked properly. The air defense system also worked well. Clearly, we are talking here about the Kyiv regime’s response to our very effective strikes on one of the decision-making centers. The Sunday strike,” Peskov stated.

Peskov said he could not comment on where the drones were launched from and who the target was.

“The only thing [I can say] is that it was obviously an attack of the Kyiv regime,” he added.

Ukraine has denied any direct involvement in the attack.

Kremlin spokesman says Putin briefed on Moscow drone attack

Kremlin spokesman said President Vladimir Putin is working in the Kremlin and has been briefed about drone attacks on Moscow.

Dmitry Peskov added Russian air defences and the defence ministry had done well in dealing with the assault and there were currently no plans for Putin to comment on the attack on the capital.

“Everyone worked properly. The air defense system also worked well. Clearly, we are talking here about the Kyiv regime’s response to our very effective strikes on one of the decision-making centers. The Sunday strike,” Peskov stated.

Russia has blamed Ukraine for the attack while Kyiv has denied its involvement.

Ukrainian official denies Kyiv’s involvement in Moscow drone attack

A Ukrainian presidential aide denied Kyiv was responsible for a drone attack on Moscow but said that Ukraine enjoyed watching it unfold.

“Of course, we are pleased to watch and predict an increase in the number of attacks. But of course we have nothing directly to do with this,” Mykhailo Podolyak told the YouTube channel Breakfast Show.

While air defences destroyed all eight drones, the attack is the most significant one on Moscow since the war began, according to Russian officials.

Moscow residents begin returning home: Mayor

The mayor of Moscow stated that residents are beginning to return home after a drone attack in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

Sergey Sobyanin said on VK, “Emergency services have taken all the necessary measures to study the circumstances of buildings damaged by UAVs. Evacuated for the purpose of unhindered work of special services, residents are beginning to return to their homes. Residents of the building on Leninsky Prospekt will be the first to return to their apartments.

“Specialists have been instructed to eliminate minor damages in buildings as soon as possible,” he added.

The drone attacks hit some of Moscow’s most prestigious areas, including Leninsky Prospekt and the area of western Moscow.

Woman, 33, killed in Kyiv drone attacks: Ukrainian officials

A 33-year-old woman was killed and 13 others were wounded in the Russian drone attack on Kyiv in the early hours of Tuesday, Ukraine’s National Police said.

Among those injured, nine were in the city while four were hurt in the wider capital region, police added.

Ukraine’s Air Force reported earlier that its air defenses had destroyed 29 of 31 drones launched at Kyiv by Russia.

Russian Defense Ministry blames Ukraine for Moscow drone attack

Russia’s Ministry of Defense has claimed that Ukraine is responsible for a “terrorist attack” using drones against Moscow on Tuesday.

All eight aircraft-type unmanned aerial vehicles launched at the Russian capital were destroyed, the ministry said in a statement.

“Three of them were suppressed by electronic warfare, lost control and deviated from their intended targets,” the statement said, adding, “Another five UAVs were shot down by the Pantsir-S surface-to-air missile system in the Moscow region.”

Kyiv has not yet commented on the alleged drone attack.

Russian state media reported earlier that two buildings were damaged in a drone attack. Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said in an update that two people were injured but no one was hospitalized. Emergency services continue to work at the sites, he said.

Russia says its air defenses shot down a number of drones near Moscow

Russian air defenses shot down a number of drones as they approached Moscow Tuesday, the country’s main federal investigating authority said in a statement Tuesday.

“As a result of the fall of unmanned aerial vehicles, several buildings in Moscow have sustained minor damage. In addition, a number of unmanned aerial vehicles were shot down by Russian air defense forces on their way to Moscow,” the Russian Investigative Committee said in a statement.

Based on preliminary information, there were no casualties, while city emergency services and Russian Investigative Committee personnel are on the scene following the attack, it added.

“The persons involved in the crime are being identified,” the Investigative Committee noted.

Ukraine says it shot down nearly 30 drones over Kyiv early Tuesday

Ukrainian air defenses destroyed 29 of 31 drones launched at Kyiv by Russia early Tuesday, Ukraine’s Air Force said.

“Almost all of the drones were destroyed on the outskirts of the capital and in the Kyiv sky,” the Ukrainian Air Force said.

One person was killed in the bombardment, the 17th aerial assault launched by Russian forces at Kyiv during this month alone, authorities announced earlier.

Four people were injured by shrapnel, according to Kyiv police chief Andrii Nebytov, and there were 50 reports of damage to houses, commercial properties and cars.

“The police are recording every crime of the Russian army, for which they will definitely be held accountable,” Nebytov wrote.

Earlier reports from Ukrainian officials said 20 drones were shot down overnight.

Moscow drone attack caused minor damage to several buildings: Mayor

A drone attack on Russia’s capital city early Tuesday resulted in “minor damage to several buildings,” but no casualties were reported, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said.

“All of the city’s emergency services are on the scene,” Sobyanin wrote on Telegram, adding, “They are investigating the circumstances of what happened. No one has been seriously injured so far.”

One of the damaged buildings was in the south of Moscow, and another is located southwest of the Russian capital, according to state news agency RIA.

Quoting a spokesperson for the emergency services, state news agency TASS said authorities are investigating several possibilities, including that a drone hit a building.

What looked like drone fragments were found around the building, TASS reported.

Russian air strikes target Kyiv for third night running

Blasts were heard in Kyiv and several buildings were set ablaze after Russia targeted Ukraine’s capital for the third night running.

Officials say falling debris caused the blazes, as Ukraine’s air defences intercepted several drones and missiles.

Ukraine claims it downed all missiles and drones in the previous two attacks.

Zelensky says timing of Ukraine’s counteroffensive has been set

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said a decision had been made on the timing of Ukraine’s counteroffensive in his nightly address on Monday.

“As usual, the commander-in-chief and the commanders of the operational directions reported to the staff,” Zelensky stated.

“Not only the supply of ammunition, not only the training of new brigades, not only our tactics. But also, the timing. This [the timing] is what is most important. The timing of how we will move forward. We will,” the president continued.

“The decisions have been made,” he added.

Zelensky did not provide further details on when the counter offensive would launch.

Russia is transferring forces to Bakhmut to replace Wagner fighters: Ukrainian military

Russia has been transferring its forces to Bakhmut to replace fighters from the Wagner group, said Serhii Cherevatyi, spokesperson for the Eastern Grouping of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, during an interview with Ukrainian media on Monday.

“Yes, [Russia] is currently rotating its units [in Bakhmut] – primarily in light of the significant losses the Wagner Group has suffered. They are forced to do it, not for any other reason,” Cherevatyi said, adding, “Units of airborne forces and motorized infantry units of are entering [Bakhmut]. We know what units they are; we know their commanders and their combat capabilities.”

Cherevatyi noted “all of these Russian units have been taking part in hostilities since 24 February 2022 and have sustained significant losses.”

He also said that Russia used “recently mobilized soldiers” to replenish those units.

In recent days, “the dynamics of combat clashes in the Bakhmut direction have been approximately the same,” Cherevatyi added.

Cherevatyi’s comments echoed those of Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar, who said Russians are “replacing troops from Wagner with regular units and trying to stabilize the defense in this area.”

On Sunday, the head of the Wagner group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, stated that the handover of his fighters’ positions in Bakhmut to Russian army units may extend to June 5.

Ukrainian diplomat says Zelensky’s peace plan only way forward

Chief diplomatic adviser Ihor Zhovkva has told Reuters that Ukraine has no interest in a ceasefire that locks in Russian territorial gains, and wants the implementation of its peace plan, which envisages the full withdrawal of Russian troops.

He pushed back on a flurry of peace initiatives from China, Brazil, the Vatican and South Africa in recent months.

“There cannot be a Brazilian peace plan, a Chinese peace plan, a South African peace plan when you are talking about the war in Ukraine,” Zhovkva said in an interview.

Kyiv’s peace plan is the only way to end Russia’s war in Ukraine and the time for mediation efforts has passed, he added.

Russia will not go into a negotiation without winning the war in Ukraine: EU’s top diplomat

European Union’s top diplomat Josep Borrell said on Monday that he was “not optimistic” about how the Russia-Ukraine conflict will play out this summer.

Borrell added that he believes Russia will only negotiate if it wins the war.

“I am not optimistic about what will happen in Ukraine this summer. I see a concentration of troops on both sides, I see Russia’s clear intent to win the war, (Russia) will not go into a negotiation if it doesn’t win the war,” he stated, speaking in Barcelona, Spain.

Borrell’s remarks come as Moscow hit Kyiv with an array of missile fire Monday in a surprise daytime attack, hours after an overnight barrage of the Ukrainian capital and across the country.

Ukraine promises swift retaliation after latest barrage of Russian missile attacks

The head of Ukraine’s Defense Intelligence promised retribution “very soon” after the latest wave of Russian missile and drone attacks against Kyiv and other locations.

“All those in Russia who still believed, believe or maybe dream that they can frighten Ukraine, I want to disappoint you — this is not true. Everyone has been and is still at their workplaces and continues to do their jobs,” Kyrylo Budanov said in an interview Monday.

He added: “All those who tried to scare us, dreaming that it would have some effect, will regret it very soon. Our response will not be delayed. Everyone will see everything soon.”

Dozens of drones and missiles have been fired by Russian forces since Sunday night, according to Ukrainian officials, who say the great majority were intercepted.

Yurii Ihnat, spokesperson for the Ukrainian Air Force, said that the missile barrage Monday appears to have been largely with Iskander missiles, either in ballistic or cruise mode. Ballistic missiles travel faster and are more difficult to intercept, though the Ukrainian military insists all 11 missiles that were fired toward Kyiv in a rare daytime barrage were brought down.

Ihnat also noted on Ukrainian television that there’s a possibility that S-300 and S-400 missiles were used.

“The direction of the attack was from the north,” Ihnat added, without indicating whether the missiles were fired by Russian units based in southern Belarus or in Russia.

Asked whether recently received US Patriot missile batteries had been in action, Ihnat said: “I think you can guess, if Iskander-M missiles were shot down, then one can conclude what kind of means were used to hit such targets, ballistic targets.”

The Kyiv city military administration, said the daytime barrage was the 16th attack on the capital since the beginning of the month.

“Thus, the enemy changed its tactics — after prolonged, nighttime attacks only, it struck a peaceful city during the day, when most residents were at work and outside. In other words, the Russians are clearly demonstrating that they are aiming to destroy the civilian population,” it added.

1 person killed, several injured after shelling in Russia’s Belgorod Region: Governor

One person was killed and several others were injured by shelling in the town of Shebekino in Russia’s Belgorod region, the region’s governor stated.

Gov. Vyacheslav Gladkov said on his Telegram channel on Monday that it was a “difficult day” and that there was “a lot of shelling.”

Gladkov noted that in recent days Belgorod region endured a “large amount of damage caused by hours of shelling” that caused the power, cell phone connection, heat and water to go off in numerous areas, which have now been restored.

The governor mentioned Novaya Tavolzhanka, Grafovka, Murom and Arkhangelsky being among the affected areas.

At least 2 killed in air strike near Bakhmut

The State Emergency Service of Ukraine released video Monday of the immediate aftermath of what it says was a Russian air strike on a gas station in Toretsk, a town near the eastern city of Bakhmut.

At least two people were reportedly killed and eight were wounded in the strike, the unit said on Facebook, and three injured individuals were removed from the rubble.

Toretsk is regularly hit by Russian artillery as well as occasional air strikes.

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