Russian soldiers moved on a manufacturing city targeted in their effort to seize a region of eastern Ukraine on Wednesday, as the US announced it would provide sophisticated missiles to Kyiv to help compel Moscow to negotiate a cease-fire.
Russian soldiers, now 98 days into their invasion, are hitting infrastructure in eastern and southern Ukraine, including the symbolically significant industrial city of Sievierodonetsk, which has been the major focus of Moscow’s onslaught in recent days, according to Ukraine’s General Staff.
President Joe Biden announced the delivery of precise rocket launchers and bombs capable of striking Russian targets at great ranges, as part of a $700 million weapons package set to be disclosed on Wednesday.
“We have acted rapidly to supply Ukraine a large amount of equipment and ammunition so that it can fight on the battlefield and negotiate in the strongest possible position,” Biden wrote.
The M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), which Kyiv has described as “crucial” in countering Russian missile attacks, was among the new supplies, according to a senior Biden administration official, which came on top of billions of dollars worth of other equipment such as drones and anti-aircraft missiles.
Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told Russian news agency RIA Novosti that Moscow viewed the latest US aid package “very unfavorably.”
Concerns that such weaponry may lead to direct confrontation with the US were allayed when top administration officials claimed Ukraine assured them that the missiles would not be used to target inside Russia.
“The Ukrainians will use these systems to fight Russian advances on Ukrainian soil, but they will not be deployed against targets on Russian territory,” a US official said.
The Russian defence ministry stated Russia’s nuclear troops were undertaking maneuvers in the Ivanovo area, northeast of Moscow, just after the US decision was revealed, according to the media.
It claimed the ministry as claiming that 1,000 personnel were engaged in intensive drills involving more than 100 vehicles, including Yars intercontinental ballistic missile launchers.
The decision by the United States to deliver additional weaponry was not mentioned in the Interfax story.
Russia has also finished testing of its hypersonic Zircon cruise missile, which will be deployed on a new Northern Fleet frigate by the end of the year, according to a senior military commander.
Russian soldiers continued to shell the northern, southern, and eastern districts of Sievierodonetsk, in Luhansk, one of two provinces in the eastern Donbas area that Moscow claims on behalf of rebels, according to Ukraine’s General Staff.
Russia will control all of Luhansk if it occupies Sievierodonetsk and its smaller twin Lysychansk on the higher west bank of the Siverskyi Donets river, which is a key military goal for President Vladimir Putin’s army.
According to regional governor Serhiy Gaidai, Russian soldiers currently control around 70% of the city. He earlier stated that the city has been virtually reduced to ruins and that Russian shelling has made delivering help and evacuating civilians difficult.
Gaidai claimed on the Telegram messaging program that “some Ukrainian forces have withdrawn to more favourable, pre-prepared locations.” He said that because Lysychansk is on a hill, it is easier to defend, but that once Russian forces have complete control of Sievierodonetsk, they would target it with artillery and mortars.
Leonid Pasechnik, the head of the pro-Moscow Luhansk People’s Republic, told TASS news agency that Russian proxies had proceeded more slowly than planned in order to protect city infrastructure and “exercise prudence near its chemical industries.”
Due to a Russian air strike on a nitric acid tank, Gaidai has encouraged inhabitants of Sievierodonetsk not to evacuate bomb shelters. The police force of the Luhansk People’s Republic accused Ukrainian forces of causing damage to it.
According to Jan Egeland, the chairman of the Norwegian Refugee Council, which has long operated out of Sievierodonetsk, up to 12,000 residents are still stuck in the crossfire, unable to get water, food, medication, or electricity.
“Civilians are being forced to take cover in bomb shelters and basements, with just a few precious possibilities for those attempting to flee,” he warned.
Ukraine claims that armaments provided by the US and other nations since the invasion began have aided in fending off Russian gains.
Ammunition, counter-fire radars, a number of air surveillance radars, extra Javelin anti-tank missiles, and anti-armour weaponry are all part of the latest US package, according to authorities.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who has been criticized of being slow to help Ukraine, said on Wednesday that Berlin will provide Kyiv with its IRIS-T medium-range surface-to-air defense system.
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy of Ukraine has asked for additional weaponry while criticizing the European Union for not penalizing Russian energy sooner. The EU decided on Monday to restrict imports of Russian oil.
The EU has announced an embargo on Russian oil imports by sea. Officials predicted that two-thirds of Russia’s oil supplies to Europe would be halted at first, and 90% by the end of the year.
Russia increased its gas cuts to Europe in response to the EU oil embargo, raising prices and intensifying its economic struggle with Brussels.
The war has affected Ukraine’s wheat and other commodity exports, resulting in higher food costs for consumers, particularly in the world’s poorest countries.
On Wednesday, Pope Francis called for the lifting of all restrictions on wheat exports from Ukraine, stating that grain should not be used as a “weapon of war.”
On February 24, Putin initiated his “special operation” to disarm and “denazify” Ukraine. Ukraine and its Western allies see this as a spurious excuse for a land grab.
Ukraine charges Russia of massive war crimes, including the destruction of cities and the death and torture of people. The claims are false, according to Russia.