Russian President Vladimir Putin warned on Sunday that Moscow would hit new targets if the West supplied Ukraine with long-range missiles, hours after several explosions rocked the Ukrainian capital Kyiv.
The battle for control of the strategically important eastern city of Severodonetsk has also raged, with regional governor Sergiy Gaiday saying Ukrainian forces now control “half the city”.
Thousands of civilians have been killed and millions forced to flee their homes since Putin ordered Russian troops into Ukraine on February 24.
The Russian leader said sending long-range missile supplies to Ukraine meant that “we will draw the appropriate conclusions and use our weapons…to hit targets we haven’t hit before.”
He did not specify which targets he was talking about.
Putin’s comments came after the US said last week it would supply Ukraine with advanced missile systems, the latest in a long list of weapons sent or promised to the pro-Western country. .
Ukraine has demanded ever more powerful weapons and its deputy defense minister stressed on Sunday that this support was necessary until Russia was defeated.
“We have already entered a protracted war and we will need constant support,” Ganna Malyar told local media.
“The West must understand that its aid cannot be one-off, but something that continues until we win,” she added.
“They bomb everything”
Earlier Sunday, Ukrainian officials said Russian missiles hit rail infrastructure sites in the first such strikes on Kyiv since April 28.
Russia said the strikes destroyed tanks supplied to Ukraine by Eastern European countries.
“Long-range high-precision missiles fired by the Russian Aerospace Forces on the outskirts of Kyiv destroyed T-72 tanks supplied by Eastern European countries and other armored vehicles that were in hangars “said Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov.
One person was injured and AFP reporters saw several buildings with blown windows near one of the targeted sites.
Leonid, a 63-year-old resident who worked at the facility, said he heard three or four explosions.
“There’s nothing military there but they’re bombing everything,” he said.
Vasyl, 43, said he heard five explosions.
“People are scared now,” he said as he returned to his damaged home with two loaves of bread.
“It’s a horror show”
In the east of the country, Russian and Ukrainian forces battled for control of Severodonetsk, the largest city still in Ukrainian hands in the Luhansk region of the Donbass region.
Russian forces have made slow but steady progress in the region in recent weeks after being pushed back by withdrawal from other parts of the country, including Kyiv.
“The Russians controlled about 70% of the city, but were pushed back in the last two days,” Gaiday said on Telegram.
“They are afraid to move freely in the city.”
The Russian military said on Saturday that some Ukrainian military units were withdrawing from Severodonetsk, but Mayor Oleksandr Striuk said Ukrainian forces were fighting to retake the city.
“We are currently doing everything necessary to restore full control” of the city, he said in an interview broadcast on Telegram.
In nearby Lysychansk, pensioner Oleksandr Lyakhovets said he had just enough time to save his cat before flames engulfed his flat after it was hit by a Russian missile.
“They shoot here endlessly… It’s a horror show,” the 67-year-old told AFP.
On Sunday, the press service of the office of the Ukrainian president reported nine civilians killed in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions by shelling.
Western powers have imposed increasingly harsh sanctions on Russia, but divisions have emerged over how to proceed, particularly over whether or not to engage in dialogue with Russia.
French President Emmanuel Macron said on Friday that Putin had made a “fundamental mistake” but that Russia should not be “humiliated” to allow a diplomatic solution.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba reacted on Saturday by saying that such calls “only humiliate France” and any country taking a similar position.
Speaking from the Apostolic Palace in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday, Pope Francis renewed calls for “real negotiations” to end what he called the “increasingly dangerous escalation” of the war.
In addition to the human toll, the conflict has caused considerable damage to Ukraine’s cultural heritage.
On Saturday, Ukrainian officials reported that a large wooden Orthodox monastery, a popular place of pilgrimage, had burned down and blamed Russian bombing.
Russian troops now occupy a fifth of Ukrainian territory, according to Kyiv, and Moscow has imposed a blockade on its Black Sea ports, raising fears of a global food crisis. Ukraine and Russia are among the world’s leading wheat exporters.
The UN said it was in intense negotiations with Russia to allow Ukraine’s grain harvest to leave the country.
Away from the battlefield, Wales dashed Ukraine’s dreams of winning their first FIFA World Cup since 2006 with a 1-0 win.
Before the game at Cardiff City Stadium on Sunday, the Ukrainian national anthem was applauded from all sides.