Ukraine Situation Report: Russian Cruise Missiles Strike Targets Across The Country
The Russian military hit parts of Ukraine’s power grid and rail infrastructure in at least five different regions.
Russia's military has launched a major cruise missile barrage across Ukraine, including a rare reported strike in Ukraine's Transcarpathia region, which borders Slovakia, Hungary, and Romania to the west and south. Russian missiles also reportedly hit targets in the western Lviv region, near the strategic Black Sea port of Odesa in the south, in the Dnipro region to the east, and around the capital Kyiv in the north.
Portions of the power grid near Lviv were apparently among the targets, leaving parts of the city without electricity. The missiles were also aimed at rail infrastructure, which the Ukrainian military relies on to move materiel and personnel around the country, and has been the main mode of transportation for foreign delegations. The head of Ukrainian Railways, the country's state-owned rail transport enterprise, said that at least six train stations had been struck.
It's unclear exactly what types of missiles were employed in these strikes. Video footage of a Russian Bastion-P ground-based coastal defense system firing Oniks anti-ship cruise missiles, which have secondary land-attack capabilities, at targets in Ukraine is circulating in relation to these new strikes. However, this footage emerged online yesterday in connection with an earlier strike on Odesa.
Earlier in the day, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin confirmed today that 155mm M777 towed howitzers, which were recently transferred to the Ukrainian military, are now being actively employed in combat against Russian forces. American officials, among others, have highlighted the importance of bolstering Ukraine's artillery forces at this stage of the conflict, with Russia's military attempting to make new gains in the eastern and southern ends of the country in recent weeks.
The War Zone has previously explored how important artillery, as well as tanks and other armored vehicles, are likely to be in the ongoing operations on the open plains of Ukraine's eastern Donbas region. By all indications, Ukrainian forces have been able to at least stymie the Russian military's renewed offensive in that part of the country, which began just over two weeks ago.
Separately, there are reports that Russian forces are either assaulting the Azovstal iron and steel works in the besieged southeastern port city of Mariupol, or are preparing to do so. Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin had personally called off any plans to launch such an operation, instead directing the country's military to seal off the sprawling facility, which is the last bastion of Ukrainian defenders in the city.
This apparent change in plans in Mariupol comes after a United Nations-brokered ceasefire, which allowed civilians to evacuate the city with the help of U.N. and Red Cross personnel, came to an end. After that temporary halt in the fighting had expired, Russian troops immediately resumed shelling the Avozstal plant. Some number of civilians, along with a significant number of wounded Ukrainian security forces personnel, reportedly remain within the complex, along with a mixture of Ukrainian military, police, and volunteer forces. The fighting in Mariupol as a whole, over the past two months or so, has devastated the entire city.
Fully securing Mariupol, no matter how pyrrhic the victory, would achieve a significant strategic aim of creating a Russian-controlled land bridge to the occupied Crimean Peninsula. It could also offer the kind of tangible success that Russian forces have been under pressure to produce ahead of the annual marking on May 9 of the Soviet Union's defeat of Nazi Germany during World War II.
WARNING: Some of the updates below contain graphic material.
Before diving into the most recent news below, The War Zone readers can bring themselves up to speed first on how the conflict in Ukraine had progressing already with our previous rolling coverage here.
POSTED: 6:20 PM EST—
The Russian missile strikes today are some of the most significant in scale and scope since the conflict began nearly 10 weeks ago. For weeks now, Russian forces have been at least attempting to step up strikes on targets in Lviv and other areas of western Ukraine, which had largely escaped the fighting for weeks. Lviv in particular had subsequently become a major transshipment point for military and other aid, as well as a hub for foreign diplomatic activity and refugees fleeing more active areas of the conflict further east.
The strikes targeting Ukraine's rail infrastructure are part of another recent trend. Rail remains a key mode of transport in Ukraine, including for military-related cargoes and personnel. A host of foreign delegations, including one led by U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and another that included U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, have traveled to the capital Kyiv in recent weeks by train from neighboring Poland.
Firing missiles at targets in the west, south, east, and north of Ukraine all at once can also be seen as a demonstration on the part of the Russian military that it still retains the capacity to hold the entire country at risk. This all comes as renewed Russian offensives in the southern and eastern parts of Ukraine have been, at the very best, slow going as the May 9 anniversary quickly approaches.
At the same time, foreign military aid shipments to Ukraine have not only continued to flow, but have expanded both in size and scope, further threatening to hamper Russian advances.
At a hearing today regarding the Pentagon's 2023 Fiscal Year budget proposal before the Senate Appropriations Committee's Subcommittee on Defense, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin disclosed that American-supplied M777s had reached the front lines of the conflict in Ukraine. Yesterday, the U.S. military had said that 70 M777s had been transferred to the Ukrainian armed forces out of a total of 90 that they were ultimately expected to receive, and that around 200 Ukrainian personnel had been trained so far to employ them.
Australia and Canada have also sent, or are preparing to send, M777s. These are among a number of different types of 155mm howitzers, including self-propelled types, that multiple countries have or are in the process of transferring to the Ukrainian military. A report emerged today that Germany could directly provide Ukraine with a number of PzH 2000 self-propelled 155mm howitzers as part of that country's recent policy shift regarding military aid. These deliveries are doubly significant in that they all represent the first 155mm artillery pieces of any kind for Ukraine's artillery forces, which had previously been equipped entirely with Soviet-era designs.
The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing today also touched on issues related to the U.S. government's ongoing delivery of thousands of Javelin anti-tank guided missiles, as well as Stinger shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles, also known as man-portable air defense systems. Senator Lisa Murkowski, a Republican from Alaska, asked Secretary Austin about apparent difficulties that Ukrainian forces appear to be having in training new recruits to operate the Javelin system. Austin indicated that this was the first he had heard about this and would get back to her after looking into the matter.
Separately, Senator Roy Blunt, a Missouri Republican, said that the U.S. military had transferred fully one-third of its Javelins and a quarter of its Stingers to Ukraine already, raising questions about the remaining stockpile available to U.S. troops. This is something that has become a point of increasing concern among lawmakers. You can read more about all of this here.
At the hearing, Austin took the opportunity to reiterate the Biden administration's call for Congress to approve a new $33 billion Ukraine-related spending package that will include funds for more aid, as well as money to help replenish U.S. military stockpiles. He said that, without this new funding, continued American assistance to the Ukrainian military could be in jeopardy.
The United States is not alone in working to expand its military assistance to Ukraine. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson laid out what the United Kingdom is doing while speaking remotely to Ukraine's parliament, or Rada, today. The British government is currently in the process of working to transfer Brimstone guided missiles, Stormer air defense vehicles armed with Starstreak surface-to-air missiles, cargo-carrying drones, radars, and other gear, according to Johnson.
A separate U.K. government statement said that the country will donate 13 unspecified 4x4 mine-resistant armored vehicles to Ukraine specifically to help with the evacuation of civilians from areas in the eastern end of the country. British authorities are also looking to provide assistance in preparing the country's rail infrastructure, which Russian forces have increasingly targeted.
In his remarks to the Rada, Prime Minister Johnson lauded the Ukrainian military for continuing to keep Russian forces at bay months after the invasion first began, and criticized the Russian government over alleged atrocities committed in Ukraine.
The Israeli government is now reportedly considering sending military aid to the Ukrainian military, but with a focus on defensive systems and equipment. This comes after Israeli officials slammed Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov over comments he made this weekend that were widely seen as anti-semtitic. Israeli authorities have been trying to balance its ties with Russia and the United States, as well as Ukraine, since the conflict began.
Expanding aid to the Ukrainian armed forces has been a hot topic of discussion in the past month or so, something that started as indications grew that Russian forces were preparing to launch reinvigorated offensives in southern and eastern regions of the country. Russia's military began those operations just over two weeks ago. So far, Russian units have made relatively limited advances and have even lost ground around the northern city of Kharkiv. Foreign officials have pointed to these developments as evidence of the need for more military assistance.
Ukrainian commanders in the besieged southern port city of Mariupol, which has been surrounded since almost the very beginning of the conflict, are reporting that Russian forces are attempting to make a new push to capture the Azovstal iron and steel works. This sprawling facility in the center of the city is home to the remaining Ukrainian forces there and is now also being reportedly subjected to persistent artillery fire.
The Russian bombardment of the Azovstal site had paused briefly as part of a U.N.-brokered deal to evacuate civilians from the facility. Individuals who managed to escape with the help of the United Nations and the Red Cross reached Zaporizhzhia to the northwest today.
Mariupol's mayor, Vadym Boichenko, has claimed that Russian forces are forcing civilians left in the city to help clean up debris and bury the dead. He said that they have deported tens of thousands of others against their will to Russia proper, where they are being forced to work. These claims cannot be readily verified independently, but align with many other reports, especially about Ukrainians being forced to relocate to Russia or sent to so-called "filtration camps."
The U.K. Ministry of Defence released an assessment earlier today that said, in part, that the Russian military had been left substantially weaker overall as a result of its invasion of Ukraine. Any future attempts to recapitalize its forces are likely to be hampered by foreign sanctions, British authorities added.
The pictures below reportedly show a parked Russian Mi-8/Mi-17 Hip-type helicopter being destroyed by Ukrainian forces using an infantry anti-tank weapon. This underscores how anti-tank guided missiles, in particular, are actually multi-purpose weapons capable of engaging various targets. Ukrainian forces have reportedly destroyed at least one helicopter in flight in the course of the conflict so far, as well.
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