| 23 February 2024, Friday |

Russia vows to respond to greater Western involvement in Ukraine

Russia will respond to the West’s increased engagement in the Ukraine war, but open conflict with NATO is not in Moscow’s interests, Russia’s deputy foreign minister said on Tuesday, following Washington’s vow of greater military help to Kiev.

Ukraine said on Monday that it needs to beef up its air defenses in response to Russia’s largest aircraft strikes on cities since the war began, in revenge for what Moscow called a Ukrainian attack on a critical bridge in Crimea.

US President Joe Biden promised new air defense systems, and the Pentagon indicated on September 27 that the National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System will be delivered in the next two months or so.

The White House announced that Biden and other Group of Seven leaders will conduct a virtual meeting on Tuesday to discuss their commitment to supporting Ukraine.

“We warn and hope that they understand the dangers of unrestrained escalation in Washington and other Western capitals,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov was cited as saying on Tuesday by the RIA news agency.

Russian missiles plowed into junctions, parks, and tourist locations across Ukraine early Monday, killing 19 people and injuring 105, according to emergency services authorities. On Tuesday morning, 301 villages in the Kyiv, Lviv, Sumy, Ternopil, and Khmelnytsky districts were without power.

The assault of dozens of cruise missiles launched from air, land, and sea was the most broad round of air attacks launched distant from the front lines since the war’s first day, Feb. 24.

Ukrainian officials reported more strikes on Tuesday including one on the southeastern town of Zaporizhzhia which killed at least one person.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said he ordered “massive” long-range strikes after accusing Ukraine of an attack on the bridge linking Russia to annexed Crimea on Saturday.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy spoke to Biden on Monday and wrote on Telegram that air defense was the “number 1 priority in our defence cooperation”.

“We will do everything to strengthen our armed forces,” he said in a late Monday address. “We will make the battlefield more painful for the enemy.”

Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Anatoly Antonov, said more Western help to Ukraine raised the risk of a wider war.

“Such assistance, as well as providing Kiev with intelligence, instructors and combat guidelines, leads to further escalation and increased the risks of a clash between Russia and NATO,” Antonov told media.

Faced with blackouts, Ukraine banned electricity exports to neighboring Moldova and the European Union, at a time when the continent is already grappling with skyrocketing power prices that have fueled inflation and stifled industrial development.

Power outages caused by Russian missile assaults stranded 854 miners underground in mines in Krivyi Rih, but all were rescued safely, according to Oleksandr Vilkul, the city’s military administration chief.

  • Reuters