Ukraine: Moscow bombs and recognizes ‘tense’ situation on the ground
The Russian army launched another massive attack on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure on Tuesday, while acknowledging that its forces are facing a “tense” situation on the ground, particularly in Kherson, from which it intends to evacuate the population.
At the same time, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov proposed on February 24 a reduction in Russia’s diplomatic presence in Western countries as a sign of growing tensions on the international scene since the war began.
“The most important thing is that there is no work there since Europe decided to close itself off from us, to stop any economic cooperation,” he told Moscow, saying he wanted to give priority to Asia and Africa.
The Russian army again bombed “Ukraine’s military command and power systems” on Tuesday, making sure “all targets were hit.”
“Since October 10, 30% of Ukraine’s power plants have been destroyed, leading to massive power outages across the country,” confirmed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who reiterated his refusal to negotiate with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.
“The situation is now critical,” added a presidential aide, urging all of Ukraine to “prepare” for possible “electricity, water and heating outages.”
As winter approaches, a total of “1,162 places remain without power,” Ukraine’s Emergency Service counted.
As early as Monday, strikes that had killed at least nine people, mostly with the help of suicide drones, had led to power outages in three regions.
And a week earlier, on October 10, Russian bombing raids on a scale unprecedented in months, including on energy infrastructure, had left at least 19 dead and 105 wounded.
Kiev’s western allies then promised more air defense systems, some of which have already been delivered.
– tense situation” –
Alongside these bombings, the Russian army on Tuesday acknowledged that the situation on the ground was “tense” for its troops ahead of Ukraine’s counter-offensive in the south and east of the country.
“The situation in the area of military special operations can be described as tense. The enemy does not give up attacking the positions of Russian troops,” said General Sergei Surovikin, who is responsible for operations in Ukraine for ten days.
“The Ukrainian regime is trying to break through our defences” by mobilizing “all its reserves” for the counter-offensive, and the situation in Cherson (south) in particular is “very difficult”.
The capital of the region of the same name, occupied by Russia since the spring and annexed in September, is currently the target of Ukrainian strikes aimed at its “social, economic and industrial infrastructure,” according to the Russian general.
These strikes result in disruptions to electricity, water and food supplies, which pose an “imminent threat to residents’ lives”.
In the eyes of Sergei Surovikin, this justifies that “the Russian army will primarily ensure the safe evacuation of the population.” “Further action regarding the city of Kherson itself will depend on the military situation,” he added, saying without further explanation, “so as not to rule out a very difficult decision-making process.”
– Iran in sight –
The use of Iranian drones by the Russian army was also supported by numbers, according to Kyiv on Tuesday.
The Russian army sent 43 Iranian-made Shahed-136 drones “in the last 24 hours,” of which “38 were shot down by Ukrainian soldiers,” the staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said in the morning.
This “cry for help” to Iran was “the Kremlin’s admission of its military and political bankruptcy,” President Zelenskyj mocked in the evening.
“We have no such information,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said when asked by a reporter about Moscow’s deployment of such Iranian unmanned aerial vehicles in Ukraine. “Russian technology is used, with Russian names”.
Kyiv on Monday called on the European Union (EU) to impose further sanctions on Iran, which it says is “responsible for the murder of Ukrainians”.
For its part, that country reiterated that it had “not exported arms to any of the warring factions,” while Washington threatened to sanction companies or states collaborating with Iran’s drone program.
In this regard, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Tuesday suggested President Zelenskyy to sever diplomatic relations with Tehran, which allegedly supplied drones to Russia.
– total bombings –
The new Russian strikes hit many cities in Ukraine, both the capital Kyiv and Mykolayiv (south), Dnipro (middle-east), Kharkiv (northeast) or Zhytomyr (west of Kyiv).
They left at least one dead in Mykolayiv and two, possibly three, in Kyiv, while power outages were reported in the capital and other regions.
The Russians are “attacking essential infrastructure (…) that people need in their daily lives and that are not military targets,” criticized US diplomatic chief Antony Blinken, saying it was “a sign of desperation on the part of the Russia”.
The Russian army is on the defensive on most fronts in Ukraine and has been retreating both to the north and to the east and south since September. The only sector in which it is still advancing is the area of the city of Bakhmout (east), which it has been trying to take from the Ukrainians since the summer.
The Kremlin announced that the partial mobilization of hundreds of thousands of Russian reservists decided by Vladimir Putin after his heavy losses in Ukraine has not been completed “for the time being”.
In Russia itself, according to Moscow, the Ukrainian army shelled two villages in the Kursk border region.
In Belgorod, also in neighboring Ukraine, Ukrainian shots hit a train station and injured a train station, according to its governor.
Kyiv also condemned the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)’s “inaction” to help its captured soldiers, whom the organization has not yet been able to visit.
“Unfortunately, in every exchange we find that the ICRC’s inaction has resulted in our prisoners of war and civilian hostages being tortured daily by starvation and electrocution,” lamented Ukrainian Human Rights Commissioner Dmytro Loubinets.
The Ukrainian Presidency’s chief of staff, Andriï Iermak, assured him that Kyiv “requires” from the ICRC “reasonable determination to gain access to Ukrainian prisoners in Olenivka,” a prison in the Donetsk region (east).
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