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Russia pounds Ukraine, targeting supply of Western arms

by The Associated Press | May 5, 2022 at 12:00 a.m.
People pay their respect during the funeral ceremony for Ukrainian serviceman Ruslan Borovyk killed by the Russian troops in a battle in St Michael cathedral in Kyiv, Ukraine, Wednesday, May 4, 2022. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

By JON GAMBRELL and CARA ANNA

Associated Press

LVIV, Ukraine (AP) -- Complaining that the West is "stuffing Ukraine with weapons," Russia bombarded railroad stations and other supply-line targets across the country, as the European Union moved to further punish Moscow for the war Wednesday by proposing a ban on oil imports.

Heavy fighting also raged at the Azovstal steel mill in Mariupol that represented the last stronghold of Ukrainian resistance in the ruined southern port city, according to the mayor. But a Russian official denied Moscow's troops were storming the plant, as Ukrainian commanders claimed a day earlier.

The Russian military said it used sea- and air-launched missiles to destroy electric power facilities at five railway stations across Ukraine, while artillery and aircraft also struck troop strongholds and fuel and ammunition depots.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba accused Russia of "resorting to the missile terrorism tactics in order to spread fear across Ukraine."

Air raid sirens sounded in cities across the country on Wednesday night, and attacks were reported near Kyiv, the capital; in Cherkasy and Dnipro in central Ukraine; and in Zaporizhzhia in the southeast. In Dnipro, authorities said a rail facility was hit. Videos on social media suggested a bridge there was attacked.

There was no immediate word on casualties or the extent of the damage.

The flurry of attacks comes as Russia prepares to celebrate Victory Day on May 9, marking the Soviet Union's defeat of Nazi Germany. The world is watching for whether Russian President Vladimir Putin will use the occasion to declare a victory in Ukraine or expand what he calls the "special military operation."

A declaration of all-out war would allow Putin to introduce martial law and mobilize reservists to make up for significant troop losses.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissed the speculation as "nonsense."

Meanwhile, Belarus, which Russia used as a staging ground for its invasion, announced the start of military exercises Wednesday. A top Ukrainian official said the country will be ready to act if Belarus joins the fighting.

The attacks on rail infrastructure were meant to disrupt the delivery of Western weapons, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said.

A senior U.S. defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the Pentagon's assessment, said that while the Russians have tried to hit critical infrastructure around the western city of Lviv, specifically targeting railroads, there has been "no appreciable impact" on Ukraine's effort to resupply its forces. Lviv, close to the Polish border, has been a major gateway for NATO-supplied weapons.

Weaponry pouring into Ukraine helped its forces thwart Russia's initial drive to seize Kyiv and seems certain to play a central role in the growing battle for the Donbas, the eastern industrial region that Moscow now says is its main objective.

Ukraine has urged the West to ramp up the supply of weapons ahead of that potentially decisive clash. Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany, which had been slow at first to help arm Ukraine, said his government is considering supplying howitzers, in addition to Gepard anti-aircraft guns and other equipment it has agreed to send.

The governor of the eastern Donetsk region, which lies in the Donbas, said Russian attacks left 21 people dead on Tuesday, the highest number of known fatalities since April 8, when a missile attack on the railway station in Kramatorsk killed at least 59.

In addition to supplying weapons to Ukraine, Europe and the U.S. have sought to punish Moscow with sanctions. The EU's top official called on the 27-nation bloc on Wednesday to ban Russian oil imports, a crucial source of revenue.

"We will make sure that we phase out Russian oil in an orderly fashion, in a way that allows us and our partners to secure alternative supply routes and minimizes the impact on global markets," European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France.

The proposal needs unanimous approval from EU countries and is likely to be the subject of fierce debate. Hungary and Slovakia have already said they won't take part in any oil sanctions. They could be granted an exemption.

In Mariupol, Mayor Vadym Boychenko said that Russian forces were targeting the already shattered Azovstal plant with heavy artillery, tanks, aircraft, warships and "heavy bombs that pierce concrete 3 to 5 meters thick."

"Our brave guys are defending this fortress, but it is very difficult," he said.

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