Russia reports attacks on oil refineries and town near border with Ukraine
MOSCOW/KYIV – Russia said Ukrainian artillery hit a Russian town for a third time this week and drones struck two oil refineries in an uptick in attacks on Russian territory as Ukraine prepares a Western-backed push to end Moscow’s invasion.
Inside Ukraine, Russian-installed officials said five people had been killed in Ukrainian army shelling of a Russian-occupied village in the east, where Russia has fought months of bloody and inconclusive battles to try to seize more territory.
There was no immediate comment from Ukraine on the Russian reports, in a week when the two countries accused each other of spreading terror in their capitals with air strikes.
Thousands of civilians have been killed in Ukraine and towns and cities laid to waste since Moscow’s forces invaded 15 months ago, but Tuesday marked only the second time Moscow had come under direct fire – from a flurry of drones – although oil and military facilities elsewhere in Russia have been hit.
In the Russian town of Shebekino, two of four wounded people were hospitalized and shells damaged an apartment building, four homes and a school as well as power lines, regional governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said.
Gladkov said on Saturday that he had come under artillery fire when trying to enter the town, about 7 km (4.5 miles) north of the border with Ukraine, and that two industrial facilities were hit there on Monday.
Both sides say they are targeting the buildup of each other’s forces and military equipment ahead of Ukraine’s counteroffensive, which it says will come in days or weeks, to try to drive Russian forces out of its east and south.
Germany, once Russia’s biggest energy market, reiterated that it deemed such Ukrainian attacks on Russian soil legitimate in terms of international law, and announced a sharp downgrading of diplomatic representation in both Russia and Germany.
Russian-installed officials in Ukraine’s eastern Luhansk region – one of four Moscow claims to have annexed – said Ukraine had killed five people and wounded 19 in a rocket attack on a farm in the village of Karpaty.
Ukraine’s general staff said its forces had fended off 22 Russian attacks in eastern Ukraine over the past day and Ukrainian aircraft had carried out 11 strikes on Russian personnel and military equipment, without specifying where.
Russia’s defense ministry said it had pushed Ukrainian forces back around two settlements in Donetsk province, part of a 1,000-km (620-mile) front line that has barely moved despite months of fighting that has cost tens of thousands of lives.
Reuters was not able to verify either side’s reports.
Drones attacked two oil refineries 40-50 miles (65-80 km) east of Russia’s biggest oil export terminals on Wednesday, according to Russian officials, who did not attribute blame. They said a fire at one of the terminals was later put out.
Ukrainian drones struck wealthy districts of Moscow on Tuesday and two people were injured, according to the Russian capital’s mayor. The Kremlin said Moscow’s air defenses worked effectively but had room for improvement.
Russia’s ambassador to Washington accused it of encouraging Kyiv to attack. The White House said it does not know who carried out the Moscow drone strikes but reiterated that the U.S. does not support attacks inside Russia.
The United States, Britain and Germany are among Western nations to have supplied arms to Ukraine on condition it uses them to defend itself and retake Ukrainian territory occupied by Russia, which they say launched an unprovoked war of conquest.
The White House on Wednesday announced the latest in a series of U.S. aid packages for Ukraine that includes up to $300 million worth of air defense systems and ammunition.
Russia says it is waging a “special military operation” to neutralize a threat from Kyiv’s moves towards the West. But its campaign has bogged down for months amid accusations of chaotic command-and-control and corruption, not least from the chief of Russia’s powerful Wagner mercenary force, Yevgeny Prigozhin.
Prigozhin, whose convict fighters were instrumental in the capture of the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut in mid-May after months of brutal urban warfare, said on Wednesday he had asked prosecutors to probe whether senior Russian defense officials had committed any “crimes” before or during the war.
Earlier in May, Moscow agreed to a two-month extension of a U.N.- and Turkish-brokered deal allowing Ukraine to resume grain exports from Black Sea ports to help ease a world food crisis.
But Russia warned the initiative would collapse unless another deal meant to overcome obstacles to its own grain and fertilizer exports is fulfilled.
To that end, the U.N. has made a “mutually beneficial” proposal that Kyiv, Moscow and Ankara begin preparatory work for the transit of Russian ammonia through Ukraine, a source close to the talks said on Wednesday.