KYIV, UKRAINE (AP) – Russian President Vladimir Putin’s warning to the West against sending longer-range rocket systems to Ukraine came as his forces claimed to have destroyed Western military supplies in their first such airstrikes on Ukraine’s capital in more than a month.
The attack showed that Russia still had the capability and willingness to hit at Ukraine’s heart, despite refocussing its efforts to capture territory in the east.
Putin’s comments, in a TV interview that aired on Sunday, came days after the United States (US) announced plans to deliver USD700 million of security assistance for Ukraine, includes four medium-range rocket systems.
“All this fuss around additional deliveries of weapons, in my opinion, has only one goal: to drag out the armed conflict as much as possible,” Putin said. He insisted such supplies were unlikely to change the military situation for Ukraine’s government, which he said was merely making up for losses of similar rockets.
If Kyiv gets longer-range rockets, Putin added, Moscow will “draw appropriate conclusions and use our means of destruction… in order to strike at those objects that we haven’t yet struck”.
The US has stopped short of offering Ukraine longer-range weapons that could fire deep into Russia.
Military analysts said Russia hopes to overrun Ukraine’s embattled eastern industrial Donbas region before the arrival of any US weapons.
The Pentagon said that it will take at least three weeks to get the US weapons onto the battlefield.
Russia-backed separatists have fought the Ukrainian government since 2014 in the Donbas.
Moscow also accused the West of closing off lines of communication by forcing Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s plane to cancel a trip to Serbia for talks yesterday. Serbia’s neighbours closed their airspace to Lavrov’s plane, ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told Italian television in comments reported by Russian news agencies.
Earlier in the day, Serbian newspaper Vecernje Novosti had said that Bulgaria, North Macedonia and Montenegro would not allow Lavrov’s plane to come through.
“This is another closed channel of communication,” Zakharova said.
The missiles that struck Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, on Sunday destroyed T-72 tanks supplied by Eastern European countries and other armoured vehicles, the Russian Defence Ministry said on the Telegram app.
Ukraine, however, said the missiles hit a train repair shop.
Ukraine’s railway authority led reporters on a guided tour of the repair plant in eastern Kyiv that it said was hit by four missiles. “There were no tanks, and you can just be witness to this,” said adviser to the Ukrainian president’s office Serhiy Leshchenko.
Yet a government adviser said on national TV that military infrastructure was also targetted. AP reporters saw a building burning in an area near the destroyed railcar plant.
Two residents of that district said the warehouse-type structure was part of a tank-repair facility.
Police blocking access to the site told an AP reporter that military authorities had banned the taking of images there. The Russian Defence Ministry also said air-launched precision missiles were used to destroy workshops in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine, including in Druzhkivka, that were repairing damaged Ukrainian military equipment.
Ukraine’s General Staff said Russian forces fired five X-22 cruise missiles from the Caspian Sea toward Kyiv. Four hit “infrastructure facilities”, but Ukraine said there were no casualties.