Russia has accused Ukraine of planning to attack annexed Crimea with long-range United States and British missiles and warned it would retaliate if that happened.
Russian Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu told a meeting of military officials on Tuesday that Moscow possesses information that Ukraine plans to strike Crimea with US-supplied HIMARS long-range rocket systems and British-supplied Storm Shadow cruise missiles.
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“The use of these missiles outside the zone of our special military operation would mean that the United States and Britain would be fully dragged into the conflict and would entail immediate strikes on decision-making centres in Ukraine,” Shoigu said.
Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and considers it to be outside the scope of its invasion – which is focused in eastern and southern Ukraine, where Ukraine is fighting to retake territory.
Kyiv, which says it is battling for its survival in a war of colonial conquest, said it wants to reclaim all of its territory, including Crimea, the home of Russia’s Black Sea naval base.
Shoigu said Ukraine’s armed forces carried out 263 attacks on Russian positions since June 4, referring to what Moscow regards as the start of Ukraine’s counteroffensive.
“Thanks to the smart and selfless actions of our units, all of them [the attacks] have been repelled. The enemy has not accomplished its goals,” Shoigu said.
‘Physically cleansing Ukraine’
Ukraine said it has recaptured eight villages in the early stages of its counterattack, and a defence official promised Kyiv’s “biggest blow” lay ahead despite tough resistance from Moscow’s troops.
“At this time, our soldiers in the south and east are actively destroying the enemy, physically cleansing Ukraine,” President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his nightly video message.
“A defence against terror means destroying terrorists. And it is a guarantee that the state of evil will never have the opportunity to bring evil to Ukraine.”
Russia on Tuesday struck at military and infrastructure targets in Kyiv and other parts of the country, including western areas far from the front lines, Ukrainian officials said.
Also on Tuesday, local authorities in the Russian-controlled town of Nova Kakhovka in the southern region of Kherson said a Ukrainian drone strike killed a woman and wounded four people. The attack on public service facilities was carried out by loitering munitions, also known as “kamikaze drones”, they said.
The strikes took place as attention has been focused on Ukrainian assaults against Russia’s defensive positions in the south and east in the initial stages of its counteroffensive seeking to push President Vladimir Putin’s troops back from territory seized since the invasion of Ukraine began in February 2022.
Kyiv said it has recaptured 113sq km (44sq miles) of land from Russian forces. But the latest strikes showed that Russia is capable of waging war beyond the southern and eastern front lines.
Zelenskyy’s office said drones attacked the Kyiv region in several waves with the air alert lasting for four hours.
Several commercial and administrative buildings and some private houses were damaged, it said.
Waves of Iranian drones
Ukraine said it shot down 32 of 35 Iranian-made Shahed drones launched from Russia’s Bryansk region and the Azov Sea.
A “critically important facility” was struck in Lviv, far from the front lines and 70km (43 miles) from the border with Poland, Governor Maksym Kozytskiy said. He gave no details.
The air force said Ukrainian air defences had been in action in most regions.
“However, the main direction of attack by Iranian drones was the Kyiv region. More than two dozen Shaheds were destroyed here,” it said on Telegram.
The energy ministry said debris from falling drones damaged electrical lines in the Kyiv region and also in the Mykolaiv region in the south, cutting off electricity for hundreds of residents.
The air force said Russia also hit the southeastern industrial city of Zaporizhzhia with Iskander and S-300 missiles.