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Russia intensifies shelling in Ukraine as blasts again rock separatist region in Moldova

Russia pounded Eastern and southern Ukraine on Tuesday as the United States promised to “keep moving heaven and earth” to get Kyiv the weapons it needs to repel the new offensive, despite Moscow’s warnings that such support could trigger a wider war.

United Nations chief calls for ceasefire in meeting with Russian foreign minister.

Russia pounded Eastern and southern Ukraine on Tuesday as the United States promised to “keep moving heaven and earth” to get Kyiv the weapons it needs to repel the new offensive, despite Moscow’s warnings that such support could trigger a wider war.

Russian missile fire also knocked out a strategic railroad bridge along a route that links southern Ukraine’s Odesa port region to neighbouring Romania, a NATO member, Ukrainian authorities said.

The attack on the bridge — along with a series of strikes on key railroad stations a day earlier — appears to mark a major shift in Russia’s approach. Up until now, Moscow has spared strategic bridges, perhaps in hopes of keeping them for its own use in seizing Ukraine.

But now it seems to be trying to thwart Ukraine’s efforts to move troops and supplies.

In the south, Ukrainian forces struck back in the Kherson region, while Oleksandr Kamyshin, head of the state-run Ukrainian Railways, said there were no injuries in the Russian attack on the railroad bridge in the Odesa region.

Battle for Donbas

After unexpectedly fierce resistance by Ukrainian forces thwarted Russia’s attempt to take Ukraine’s capital early in the war, Moscow now says its focus is the capture of the Donbas, the mostly Russian-speaking industrial region in Eastern Ukraine partly held by Moscow-backed separatists.

In its latest assessment of the fighting, the British Defence Ministry reported Russian advances and heavy fighting in the Donbas, with one town, Kreminna, apparently falling after days of street-by-street fighting.

In the gutted southern port city of Mariupol, authorities said Russian forces hit the Azovstal steel plant with 35 airstrikes over the past 24 hours. The plant is the last known stronghold of Ukrainian fighters in the city. About 1,000 civilians were said to be taking shelter there with an estimated 2,000 Ukrainian soldiers.

“Russia has drastically intensified strikes over the past 24 hours and is using heavy bunker bombs,” said Petro Andryushchenko, an adviser to Mariupol’s mayor. “The number of those wounded will be clear once the rubble is cleared.”

He also accused Russian forces of shelling a route it had offered as an escape corridor from the steel mill.

Beyond Mariupol, local officials said at least nine people were killed and several more wounded in Russian attacks on towns and cities in Eastern and southern Ukraine. Pavlo Kyrylenko, governor of the Donetsk region of the Donbas, said on the Telegram messaging app that Russian forces “continue to deliberately fire at civilians and to destroy critical infrastructure.”

Ukraine’s military also said Russian forces shelled Kharkiv, the country’s second-largest city, which lies in the northeast, outside the Donbas, but is seen as key to Russia’s apparent bid to encircle Ukrainian troops in the Donbas from the north, east and south.

United Nations calls for ceasefire

Diplomatic efforts to end the fighting also continued.

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres met Russian Foreign Affairs Minister Sergei Lavrov and called again for a ceasefire. The UN chief was scheduled to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin later in the day.

But Lavrov warned that if the Western flow of weapons continues, the talks aimed at ending the fighting will not produce any results.

Russian foreign minister warns NATO risks ‘World War III’ with weapons shipment to Ukraine

Russia’s top diplomat warned Ukraine against provoking a third world war and said the threat of a nuclear conflict ‘should not be underestimated.’

A day earlier, Lavrov accused the North Atlantic Treaty Organization of “pouring oil on the fire” with its support for Ukraine. He also warned against provoking World War III and said the threat of a nuclear conflict “should not be underestimated.”

“A nuclear war cannot be won and it shouldn’t be fought,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby responded in an interview with CNN. “That kind of rhetoric is clearly not called for in the current scenario. What is called for is Mr. Putin ending this war.”

Ukrainian Foreign Affairs Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Twitter that Lavrov’s comments underscore Ukraine’s need for Western help: “Russia loses last hope to scare the world off supporting Ukraine. Thus the talk of a ‘real’ danger of WWIII. This only means Moscow senses defeat in Ukraine.”

Blasts in separatist Moldova region

For the second day in a row, explosions rocked the separatist region of Transnistria in neighbouring Moldova, knocking out two powerful radio antennas close to the Ukrainian border and further heightening fears of a broader conflict erupting across Europe. No one claimed responsibility for the attacks, but Ukraine all but blamed Russia.

The incident occurred in a small town of Maiac roughly 12 kilometres west of the border with Ukraine, according to the region’s Interior Ministry. It comes just a day after several explosions believed to be caused by rocket-propelled grenades were reported to hit the Ministry of State Security in the city of Tiraspol, the region’s capital.

No one was hurt in the explosions, officials said.

It was not clear who was behind the blasts in Transnistria, but the U.S. has repeatedly warned that Russian forces could launch “false-flag” operations to create a pretext for invading other countries. About 1,500 Russian troops are based in Transnistria, a long, narrow strip of land with about 470,000 people along the Ukrainian border.

Transnistria, a strip of land with about 470,000 people between Moldova and Ukraine, has been under the control of separatist authorities since a 1992 war with Moldova.

Southern Ukraine and Moldova have been on edge since a senior Russian military officer said last week that the Kremlin’s goal is to secure not just Eastern Ukraine but the entire south, so as to open the way to Transnistria.

 

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