Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has entered its fourth week without capturing Kyiv or toppling Ukraine’s government, but the bombardment of Ukrainian cities continues — a move western defense experts warn could be a sign of a cruel and intentional strategy.
Russia stepped up its attacks Friday, saying it used its first hypersonic missile to destroy a large underground warehouse containing missiles and aviation ammunition in the village of Deliatyn. Missiles and shelling struck at the edges of Kyiv and an aircraft repair installation was attacked outside the western city of Lviv. Hospitals, schools and buildings where people sought safety have been attacked around the country.
Britain’s defense intelligence chief described it as an emerging ”strategy of attrition.” Without major cities captured, Russia seems to be turning to the “reckless and indiscriminate use of firepower” that will worsen the humanitarian crisis, Lt. Gen. Jim Hockenhull said Friday.
The assessment was echoed by the Atlantic Council, a Washington-based foreign policy think tank, in a report this week. The group warned that since Russia’s “lightning offensive designed to take the capital” had failed, the military appeared to be settling in for an extended campaign “designed to suffocate Ukraine.”
The strategy would likely involve attacking civilian areas, destroying cities and blocking off supplies, possibly leading to famine, according to the analysis. The organization later drew parallels to an artificial famine engineered by the Kremlin in the 1930s that killed millions of Ukrainians — a Soviet attempt to “subjugate the Ukrainian nation.”
Meanwhile, the U.S. is pressuring China, which has kept its ties with Moscow and avoided taking a firm stance on the conflict. China’s position is in stark contrast to many western nations that have swiftly acted to condemn Russia and cut off its economy.
During a nearly two-hour video call on Friday, Biden warned Chinese President Xi Jinping of the “consequences if China provides material support to Russia,” according to the White House.
A JOURNALIST AND A REFUGEE: How one reporter helps cover the war in Ukraine while living through the fallout.
► Russia says it used its first hypersonic missile in the war to destroy an ammo depot in southwestern Ukraine.
►The U.N. migration agency says the fighting has displaced nearly 6.5 million people inside Ukraine, on top of the 3.2 million refugees who have already fled the country. Ukraine says thousands have been killed.
► Pope Francis on Friday denounced what he called the “perverse abuse of power” in Russia’s war in Ukraine. The comments were some of his strongest yet in support of Ukraine.
► The Ukraine military claims to have killed another Russian general – the fifth since the invasion began.
Russia said it used a hypersonic missile Friday to strike a western Ukraine target, the Interfax news agency reported.
Hypersonic missiles are missiles that move five times the speed of sound. The Russian military said these missiles are capable of hitting targets at a range of more than 2,000 kilometers, or roughly the distance from New York City to Kansas City.
“The Kinzhal aviation missile system with hypersonic aero ballistic missiles destroyed a large underground warehouse containing missiles and aviation ammunition in the village of Deliatyn in the Ivano-Frankivsk region,” the Russian defense ministry said Saturday.
This is the the first know use of hypersonic missiles since Russian troops invaded Ukraine.
– Ana Faguy
Three Russian cosmonauts on Friday boarded the International Space Station donning spacesuits in the Ukrainian flag’s colors. Images of the cosmonauts wearing the striking yellow and blue suits sparked speculation online that the colors were worn in protest of Russia’s invasion.
The cosmonauts are Oleg Artemyev, Denis Matveev and Sergey Korsakov. They docked at the station in their Russian Soyuz spacecraft at 3:12 p.m. EDT and are scheduled to stay aboard the station until September, according to Space.com.
When asked about the colors in a live-streamed press conference after the docking, Artemyev indicated they were a coincidence, according to the BBC.
“It became our turn to pick a color,” Artemyev said. “We had accumulated a lot of yellow material so we needed to use it. That’s why we had to wear yellow.”
But some on social media weren’t convinced.
Former NASA astronauts Scott Kelly and Terry Virts suggested on Twitter that the colors were in support of Ukraine, and astronomer Jonathan McDowell speculated on Twitter that the colors were meant as an homage to the cosmonauts’ alma mater, Bauman University, which also has blue and yellow colors.
There are seven people already on the orbiting lab, according to Space.com: cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Pyotr Dubrov, Matthias Maurer of the European Space Agency and NASA astronauts Raja Chari, Thomas Marshburn, Kayla Barron and Mark Vande Hei.
Russian Lt. Gen. Andrei Mordvichev was killed during fighting, Ukraine’s armed forces said Saturday.
Mordvichev, who commanded the 8th Combined Arms Army, is the fifth Russian general to be killed since Feb. 24.
He was killed as a result of fire damage, according to a statement Ukraine’s armed forces made on Facebook.
– Ana Faguy
Nearly 6.5 million people have been displaced inside Ukraine, the U.N. migration agency said Friday.
That’s on top of the 3.3 million people who have crossed the Ukrainian borders since Russia invaded on Feb. 24, according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs released the updated data in a paper issued Friday.
The paper noted that an additional 12 million people are thought to be stranded, unable to leave for security purposes or lack of resources and information.
Poland is recommending the European Union that the alliance impose a total ban on trade with Russia.
On Saturday, Polish Prime Minister Mateus Morawiecki proposed more stringent sanctions on Russia for the invasion of Ukraine. He said that that trade blockade should be added “as soon as possible,” and should include trade from both of Russia’s seaports as well as land trade.
“Fully cutting off Russia’s trade would further force Russia to consider whether it would be better to stop this cruel war,” he said.
On Tuesday the EU agreed to a fourth sanctions package which included restrictions on the Kremlin’s military-industrial complex, an EU import ban on those steel products currently under EU safeguard measures and an EU export ban on luxury goods.
This comes as more American companies announce the suspension of business in Russia, putting a greater strain on the Russian economy. On Friday Halliburton became the latest company to join that list.
– Ana Faguy
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian Interior Minister Denys Monastyrsky says it will take years to defuse the unexploded ordnance once the Russian invasion is over.
Monastyrsky told The Associated Press in an interview on Friday that the country will need Western assistance to carry out the massive undertaking after the war.
“A huge number of shells and mines have been fired at Ukraine, and a large part haven’t exploded. They remain under the rubble and pose a real threat,” Monastyrsky said in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv. “It will take years, not months, to defuse them.”
In addition to the unexploded Russian ordnance, Ukrainian troops have planted land mines at bridges, airports and other key locations to prevent the Russians from using them.
“We won’t be able to remove the mines from all that territory, so I asked our international partners and colleagues from the European Union and the United States to prepare groups of experts to demine the areas of combat and facilities that came under shelling,” Monastyrsky told the AP.
– The Associated Press
Sen. Lindsey Graham’s continued calls that Putin be “taken out” are alarming researchers and academics who warn the South Carolina Republican’s comments are reckless because they could be interpreted as the U.S. disregarding international law and be used to fuel disinformation in Russia.
“There are so many dangerous aspects to his comments,” said Anthony Arend, co-founder of the Institute for International Law & Politics at Georgetown University. “It sets the possible precedent that others will be able to look at the United States and say, ‘Well, they’re advocating it. Why don’t we simply move to a foreign policy that more broadly incorporates assassinations or targeting regime leaders?'”
Nika Aleksejeva, a Latvia-based researcher with the Digital Forensic Research Lab at the Atlantic Council, a Washington-based think tank, warned Graham’s comments fuel a Kremlin narrative that portrays the U.S. as a violent and lawless sponsor of terrorism out to get Russia.
“The U.S. is painted as the great evil in Russia,” she said. “One of the disinformation narrative lines is that Ukraine is our brother nation, and Russia is forced to carry out this military operation because the U.S. made Ukraine go away from Russia – that the U.S. is to blame in all these problems that are now between Russia and Ukraine.”
Graham, who tweeted in early March that “The only way this ends is for somebody in Russia to take this guy out, doubled down on his comments Wednesday.
“Yeah, I hope he’ll be taken out, one way or the other,” he told reporters Wednesday during a Capitol Hill news conference. “I don’t care how they take him out. I don’t care if we send him to the Hague and try him. I just want him to go.”
– Grace Hauk
Vladimir Putin appeared at a huge flag-waving rally at a Moscow stadium Friday and lavished praise on his troops fighting in Ukraine, three weeks into the invasion that has led to heavier-than-expected Russian losses on the battlefield and increasingly authoritarian rule at home.
“Shoulder to shoulder, they help and support each other,” the Russian president said of the Kremlin’s forces in a rare public appearance since the start of the war. “We have not had unity like this for a long time,” he added to cheers from the crowd.
The show of support amid a burst of antiwar protests inside Russia led to allegations in some quarters that the rally — held officially to mark the eighth anniversary of Russia’s annexation of Crimea, which was seized from Ukraine — was a manufactured display of patriotism.
Several Telegram channels critical of the Kremlin reported that students and employees of state institutions in a number of regions were ordered by their superiors to attend rallies and concerts marking the anniversary….