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Thursday, May 23, 2024

UKRAINE WAR COMES TO MOSCOW AS DRONES STRIKE BOTH CAPITALS

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MOSCOW/KYIV, (REUTERS) – Ukrainian drones struck wealthy districts of Moscow on Tuesday, Russia said in what one politician called the most dangerous attack on the capital since World War Two, while Kyiv was also hit from the air for the third time in 24 hours.

Since Russia sent tens of thousands of troops into its neighbour in February 2022, the war has largely been fought inside Ukraine.

Aerial strikes on targets far from the front have intensified amid a ragged stalemate on the ground with Russian forces entrenched along an extended line in Ukraine’s east and south.

Russia’s defence ministry said eight drones sent by Kyiv and targeting civilians were shot down or diverted with electronic jammers, though Baza, a Telegram channel with links to the security services, said more than 25 were involved.

Mykhailo Podolyak, a Ukrainian presidential aide, denied Kyiv was directly involved but said “we are pleased to watch events” and forecast more such strikes.

Two people were injured while some apartment blocks were briefly evacuated, according to Moscow’s mayor. Residents said they heard loud bangs followed by the smell of petrol. Some filmed a drone being shot down and a plume of smoke.

Tuesday’s early-morning drone volley targeted some of Moscow’s most prestigious districts including where Putin and the elite have residences. He was later in the Kremlin and received a briefing on the attack, a spokesman said.

Afterwards, Putin said Ukraine’s biggest ever drone strike on Moscow was an attempt to frighten and provoke Russia, and that air defences around the Russian capital would be strengthened.

Ukraine, Putin said, had chosen the path of trying “to intimidate Russia, Russian citizens and attacks on residential buildings”.

Civilian targets in Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities have since the earliest days of the war been struck repeatedly by Russian drones and missiles.

But Tuesday marked only the second time the Russian capital had come under direct fire, after an apparent drone strike on the Kremlin earlier this month that Moscow also blamed on Kyiv and said was meant to kill Putin.

The White House said it was still gathering information on the reports of drones striking in Moscow, while reiterating that Washington did not support attacks inside Russia.

Washington is “focused on providing Ukraine with the equipment and training they need to retake their own sovereign territory”, a White House spokesperson said in a statement.

Russian lawmaker Maxim Ivanov called it the most serious assault on Moscow since Nazi Germany’s invasion in World War Two, saying no Russian could now avoid “the new reality”.

“The sabotage and terrorist attacks of Ukraine will only increase,” said another Russian lawmaker, Alexander Khinshtein, who called for a radical strengthening of defences. “Do not underestimate the enemy!”

Russian state television gave the attacks calm coverage, and many Muscovites carried on with their lives with the fatalism for which they are famous. Most shrugged their shoulders and many voiced sadness that the conflict seemed to be spreading.

Olga, who said she lived near to the site of one of the drone collisions on Profsoyuznaya Street, called the strikes “logical, to be expected … what else were we waiting for?”

FOUR DEAD IN LATEST RUSSIAN STRIKES

The war has killed tens of thousands of people in Ukraine, uprooted millions, reduced cities to ruins and wreaked havoc in the global economy.

Kyiv said four people died around Ukraine in Russia’s latest attacks on Tuesday, with 34 wounded including two children.

“Russia is trying to break us and break our will,” said Ukrainian Interior Minister Ihor Klymenko.

In the capital, Ukrainian air defence shot down 29 of 31 Iranian-made Shahed drones, the armed forces general staff said in its evening update on Tuesday.

A 33-year-old woman died on her balcony when debris from a destroyed Russian projectile hit a Kyiv highrise, officials said. Two upper floors were destroyed with people possibly still under rubble and flames engulfing the top.

Russia has assaulted Kyiv 17 times in May with drones or missiles, mostly at night.

Kyiv is promising a counter-offensive backed with recently acquired Western weapons to try to drive Russian occupiers from territory seized in what Moscow calls its “special military operation” to “denazify” Ukraine and protect Russian speakers.

Ukraine calls it an imperialist land grab prompted by its quest for closer relations with the West after a long history of domination by Moscow.

Russia claims to have annexed four Ukrainian regions in the east and south but its forces do not fully control any of them, and the annexations have not been recognised internationally.

Despite this, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin said almost 1.5 million people in Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions had now received Russian passports.

With Putin wanted by the International Criminal Court to face war crimes charges, there has been speculation over his possible attendance at an August summit in South Africa where authorities would theoretically be obliged to arrest him.

Asked about that, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia would take part in the BRICS nations’ meeting at “the proper level”, with further details to be announced. The group comprises China, Russia, India, Brazil and South Africa.

Meanwhile Russia put Ukraine’s top generals on a “wanted list”, RIA news agency said.

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