Wall Street Journal Update on Russia-Ukraine War

From a Wall Street Journal story by James Marson headlined “Russia Steps Up Attacks on Ukraine Railways, Other Infrastructure”:

Russia is intensifying strikes on Ukrainian infrastructure, seeking to disrupt deliveries of Western weapons as Moscow’s offensive in the east appears to have stalled.

Ukraine’s state railway operator said that 46 passenger trains were delayed by up to 11 hours due to damage from the Russian attacks.

Missile strikes in recent days have targeted rail hubs and electrical power facilities—particularly in Ukraine’s west, where arms are flowing into the country from the West. Pentagon officials say the strikes haven’t disrupted the handoff of arms at Ukraine’s borders.

“The shipments of supplies and weapons and materiel going in continues every day, including today, and we’ve seen no indication that that flow has been impeded,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said.

Russia also resumed bombing the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol on Thursday, a day after more than 340 women, children and elderly people were evacuated through a humanitarian corridor from the city and surrounding areas, Ukrainian officials said.

Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense said Russian forces were blocking and trying to destroy Ukrainian units in the Azovstal area. “With the support of aircraft, the enemy resumed the offensive in order to take control of the plant,” the ministry said.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russian forces were continuing to block the Azovstal plant but didn’t confirm that Russia had resumed bombing the site. He said comments from the Ukrainian side contained disinformation.

On Wednesday, some 344 people were evacuated from in and around the city, according to Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk, who thanked the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross for working to ensure the evacuees safely reached the southeastern city of Zaporizhzhia.

“Another small win of ours,” Ms. Vereshchuk wrote in a Facebook post.

A Russian missile hit railway infrastructure in the eastern city of Dnipro late Wednesday, halting trains, Ukrainian officials said. The rail network in the city, a hub for Ukraine’s military efforts in the east, was also hit by two missiles Tuesday, part of one of the largest barrages since Russia invaded on Feb. 24.

Missile strikes late Tuesday hit two water pumping stations and three power substations in the western city of Lviv, knocking out electricity in part of the city, the mayor said.

Trains around Lviv were particularly affected by Russian strikes, the railway operator said. Lviv, some 30 miles from the border with Poland, is a hub for moving weapons and supplies into Ukraine.

The Russian Defense Ministry said Thursday it had used air-launched missiles to strike the Kanatovo military airfield in the Kirovohrad region in central Ukraine, as well as a large ammunition depot and a fuel-storage facility for Ukrainian military equipment in the Mykolaiv region on the Black Sea.

Ukrainian officials in those regions confirmed strikes overnight but didn’t give an assessment of the targets and levels of damage.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu on Wednesday reiterated that Moscow considers any weapons shipments from the West legitimate targets.

Ukraine’s railways have been critical for moving weapons and evacuating civilians. A Russian missile strike last month on a station in the eastern city of Kramatorsk killed more than 50 civilians.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the increased strikes on infrastructure underscored Russia’s failing war effort.

“They are trying to vent their powerlessness, because they can’t beat Ukraine,” he said.

Ukrainian forces have made recent gains on the battlefield, ousting Russian troops from villages they were using to strike Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second most populous city.

Russia has also taken recent setbacks off the battlefield. The European Union on Wednesday proposed a ban on Russian crude and refined oil products, and prepared to impose sanctions on Russian military figures whom EU officials accuse of war crimes.

The U.S. Justice Department said Thursday that law-enforcement officials in Fiji have seized a $325 million superyacht owned by Russian oligarch Suleiman Kerimov, who was previously sanctioned for alleged money laundering, in the latest move by a U.S. task force that is hunting down the assets of Russian elites stashed around the globe. Fiji’s High Court this week ruled in favor of the U.S. bid to confiscate the vessel, which defense attorneys have said was owned by a different Russian oligarch.

Western countries have sought to tighten the economic noose around Russia, and earlier this week Mr. Zelensky called on companies to extricate themselves from Russian commerce.

“If any companies remain in the Russian market, that means you are directly supporting that war machine, the terrorist Russian Federation war machine,” Mr. Zelensky said via videolink at The Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council Summit on Tuesday.

Mr. Zelensky warned executives that doing business with Russia also carried risks.

“It seems to you that you have a business with Russia…a profitable business, but one day you wake up to find that a rocket is flying toward you from Russia, and everything changes,” he said through an interpreter. “It’s not possible to do business with someone who tomorrow, instead of payment, will simply send rockets toward you.”

Mr. Zelensky recently unveiled the United24 platform to serve as the main venue for raising funds for the country. He said this week that reconstruction would cost an estimated $600 billion. The name of the platform reflects the country’s 24 regions, as well as Mr. Zelensky’s goal of fully restoring Ukraine’s territorial integrity. Collected donations will be transferred to the National Bank of Ukraine and channeled to relevant ministries for use in defense and demining, medical aid and rebuilding efforts, according to the website.

An international donor conference for Ukraine drew pledges totaling more than €6 billion, equivalent to more than $6.3 billion, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said at the meeting in Warsaw.

Pledges included a new donation of €200 million from the EU for humanitarian aid for internally displaced people in Ukraine.

Belarus, a neighbor of Ukraine that has supported the Russian invasion, began military drills on Wednesday, calling the exercises a “highly effective form of training forces that doesn’t pose a threat to the European community as a whole and neighboring countries, in particular.”

The U.K. government said that Russia could exploit large-scale drills from its ally Belarus to “inflate the threat” against Ukraine in the north and keep Ukrainian forces occupied there, as Moscow seeks to make gains in the east and south of the country.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said that he accepted an apology from Russian President Vladimir Putin for recent remarks by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, after the diplomat’s comments about Jews, Ukraine and neo-Nazis threatened to disrupt relations and further isolate the Kremlin. Mr. Lavrov, in an interview with Italian media, had compared Mr. Zelensky, who is Jewish, with Hitler and accused Jews of anti-Semitism. The Kremlin’s account of the call between the men Thursday didn’t mention an apology, instead noting that Mr. Putin referred to the Holocaust and discussed the situation in Ukraine.

James Marson is European Security Correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, based in Brussels. He previously worked as deputy bureau chief in Moscow and as a correspondent in Kyiv. He has been writing about Ukraine for 15 years and speaks Russian and Ukrainian.

Speak Your Mind