On Sunday, Russia launched airstrikes on Kyiv, claiming to have destroyed foreign-donated tanks, while Vladimir Putin warned that any supply of longer-range missile systems from the West would force Moscow to target “things that we haven’t yet struck.”
The cryptic threat of military escalation by Russian President Vladimir Putin did not explain what the next targets would be.
It comes only days after the US announced intentions to provide Ukraine with $700 million in security support, including four precision-guided medium-range rocket systems, helicopters, Javelin anti-tank weapons, radars, tactical vehicles, and more.
Military analysts believe Russia wants to take control of Ukraine’s troubled eastern industrial Donbas area, where Russia-backed rebels have been fighting the Ukrainian government since 2014, before any US weaponry arrive.
Last Monday, the Pentagon estimated that getting US weaponry onto the battlefield would take at least three weeks.
Air-launched precision missiles were used to destroy workshops in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine, according to the Russian Defense Ministry.
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s General Staff reported that Russian forces fired five X-22 cruise missiles against Kyiv from the Caspian Sea, one of which was intercepted by air defences.
One cruise missile buzzed close to the Pivdennoukrainsk nuclear station, 350 kilometres south of Kyiv, according to nuclear plant operator Energoatom.
It warned that even a single missile fragment could cause a nuclear disaster if it impacted the facility.
The missiles that hit Kyiv destroyed T-72 tanks and other armoured vehicles supplied by Eastern European countries, according to the Russian Defense Ministry’s Telegram app.
In a Sunday television interview, Putin slammed Western weapons deliveries to Ukraine, claiming that they are intended to prolong the conflict.
“All this commotion over fresh weapons supply, in my opinion, serves only one purpose: to prolong the armed confrontation as far as possible,” Putin stated.
He emphasised that such deliveries were unlikely to improve Ukraine’s military posture, which he claimed was only compensating for the loss of similar missiles.
He went on to say that if Kyiv acquires longer-range rockets, Moscow will “draw suitable conclusions and utilise our weapons of destruction, which we have plenty of, to strike at those objects that we haven’t yet destroyed.”
The US has refrained from supplying Ukraine longer-range weaponry capable of striking far into Russian territory.
However, the security package’s four medium-range High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems have wheeled launchers that allow troops to strike a target and then move away fast, which could be valuable against Russian artillery on the battlefield.
On Sunday, Moscow accused the West of cutting off communication lines by cancelling Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s trip to Serbia for talks on Monday.
Serbia’s neighbours denied their airspace to Lavrov’s plane, according to ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, who was quoted by Russian news agencies on Italian television.
“This is yet another blocked communication route,” Zakharova explained.
Despite refocusing its efforts to conquer Ukrainian land in the east, the attack sparked air-raid alerts and demonstrated that Russia still had the potential and determination to strike at Ukraine’s centre.