Moscow and Kyiv step up retaliatory attacks as Ukraine seeks to dislodge Russian forces in the country’s south and east.
Russia says it shot down a drone heading for Moscow in the third such attack in a week, while officials in both Russia and Ukraine have confirmed Ukraine targeted two bridges linking Crimea to the mainland.
Both countries have stepped up strikes on each other’s troops, weaponry and infrastructure as Kyiv seeks to dislodge Russian forces who have dug in across southern and eastern Ukraine since their invasion of the country last year.
The Moscow-appointed head of Crimea said the Chonhar bridge to the peninsula, which was annexed from Ukraine by Moscow in 2014, had been damaged by a missile strike.
Another of the three road links between Crimea and Russian-occupied parts of mainland Ukraine, near the town of Henichesk, was shelled and a civilian driver wounded.
Traffic was halted on a third bridge linking Russia to Crimea after both sides said a Ukrainian naval drone full of explosives struck a Russian fuel tanker overnight Friday, the second such attack in 24 hours.
In Russia, Moscow’s Vnukovo airport suspended flights on Sunday, citing unspecified “reasons outside its control”. Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said a drone had been shot down south of the capital.
At least 10 Russian missiles appear to have gotten through Ukraine’s air defences in an overnight attack, which Ukraine’s air force said involved 70 air assault weapons, including cruise and hypersonic missiles as well as Iranian-made drones.
Local media said a worker at a grain silo had been wounded and a rescuer died during a search operation.
The attacks followed what Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said was a bomb attack on a blood transfusion centre in the town of Kupiansk, 16km (10 miles) from the front in the eastern Kharkiv region.
“There are dead and wounded,” he said on his Telegram channel, describing the strike as a “war crime”.
He did not say how many casualties there were or whether they were military or civilian.
Despite waves of Russian air strikes, Zelenskyy said in his video address on Sunday that advanced air defence systems, including the US-built Patriot and Germany’s IRIS-T, were proving “highly effective” and had “already yielded significant results”.
Zelenskyy said Ukraine shot down “a significant part” of Russia’s attacks over the past week, including 65 missiles of various kinds, and 178 assault drones, including 87 Shahed-136s.
Russia denies deliberately targeting civilians or military hospitals in its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, which has killed tens of thousands of people, uprooted millions, and destroyed cities.
Russia’s defence ministry said it conducted successful strikes on Ukrainian air bases in the western Rivne and Khmelnytskyi regions and southern Zaporizhia region, without giving details.
The deputy governor of the Khmelnytskyi region, Serhiy Tiurin, said a military airfield in Starokostiantyniv was among the targets. He said most of the missiles were shot down, but explosions damaged several houses, a cultural institution and the bus station and a fire had broken out at a grain silo.
Ukraine is two months into a gruelling counteroffensive to try to push out Russian forces occupying almost one-fifth of its territory.
Senior officials from some 40 countries – including the United States, China and India – held talks about the conflict in Saudi Arabia on Saturday and Sunday, but the meeting wound up with no concrete action beyond a commitment to further consultations, according to a Saudi statement.
The meeting was part of a diplomatic push by Ukraine to build support beyond its core Western backers. Zelenskyy’s chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, said they were productive discussions but did not give details.
Russia did not attend. Its Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said the meeting reflected the West’s “doomed efforts” to mobilise developing nations behind Zelenskyy.
Russian and international officials say there is no prospect of direct peace talks between Ukraine and Russia at present with the war raging.
Source : Al Jazeera