KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russia’s top diplomat has warned Ukraine against provoking World War III and said the threat of nuclear conflict “should not be underestimated” as his country was launching attacks on railway and oil installations far from the front lines of the new eastern region of Moscow. offensive.
Meanwhile, the British Ministry of Defense said on Tuesday that Russian forces had taken the Ukrainian town of Kreminna in the Lukansk region after days of street-to-street fighting.
“The town of Kreminna is reported to have fallen and heavy fighting is reported south of Izium as Russian forces attempt to advance towards the towns of Sloviansk and Kramatorsk from the north and east,” the British military said in a statement. a tweet. He did not say how he knew the city, 575 kilometers (355 miles) southeast of the Ukrainian capital, kyiv, had fallen. The Ukrainian government did not immediately comment.
The US sent more weapons to Ukraine and said help from Western allies was making a difference in the 2-month war.
“Russia is failing. Ukraine is succeeding,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Monday after he and the US Secretary of Defense boldly traveled to Kyiv to meet President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
Blinken said Washington had approved a sale of $165 million in ammunition — non-U.S. ammunition mostly if not entirely for Ukraine’s Soviet-era weapons — and would also provide more than $300 million in funding for buy more supplies.
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin went further, saying that the United States wants to see Ukraine remain a sovereign and democratic country, but also wants “to see Russia weakened to the point where it cannot make things like invading Ukraine”.
Austin’s remarks appeared to represent a shift in US strategic goals since he had previously said the goal of US military assistance was to help Ukraine win and defend Ukraine’s neighbors from the war. NATO against Russian threats.
In an apparent response to Austin, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russia had “the feeling that the West wants Ukraine to keep fighting and, in their view, exhausting, exhausting the Russian army and the Russian military-industrial war complex. It’s an illusion.”
Weapons supplied by Western countries “will be a legitimate target”, Lavrov said, adding that Russian forces were targeting weapons warehouses in western Ukraine.
Lavrov accused Ukrainian leaders of provoking Russia by asking NATO to get involved in the conflict. NATO effectively “went to war with Russia through proxies and armed those proxies,” he said. NATO forces are “pouring oil on the fire,” Lavrov said, according to a transcript on the Russian Foreign Ministry website.
“Everyone is reciting incantations that under no circumstances can we allow World War III,” he said in an interview with Russian television.
Lavrov said he wouldn’t want to see the risks of a nuclear confrontation “artificially inflated now, when the risks are quite significant.”
“The danger is serious,” he said. “He is real. It should not be underestimated. »
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Twitter that Lavrov’s comments underline Ukraine’s need for Western help: “Russia is losing its last hope to dissuade the world from supporting Ukraine. Thus we speak of a “real” danger of the Third World War. It only means that Moscow feels defeat in Ukraine.”
When Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, its apparent objective was to seize the capital, Kyiv. But the Ukrainians, aided by Western weapons, forced President Vladimir Putin’s troops to retreat.
Moscow now says its aim is to take Donbass, the predominantly Russian-speaking industrial region of eastern Ukraine. Both sides say the campaign is underway, but Russia has yet to mount an all-out ground offensive or make major breakthroughs.
On Monday, Russia focused its firepower elsewhere, with missiles and warplanes striking far behind front lines in an attempt to thwart Ukrainian supply efforts.
Five railway stations in central and western Ukraine were hit and one worker was killed, said Oleksandr Kamyshin, director of Ukrainian National Railways. The bombardment included a missile attack near Lviv, the western city near the Polish border that has been swelled by Ukrainians fleeing violence elsewhere.
Ukrainian authorities said at least five people were killed by Russian strikes in the central region of Vynnytsia.
Russia also destroyed an oil refinery and fuel depots in Kremenchuk in central Ukraine, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov said. In total, Russian warplanes destroyed 56 Ukrainian targets, he said.
Philip Breedlove, a retired US general who served as NATO’s commander-in-chief from 2013 to 2016, said the strikes on fuel depots were aimed at depleting Ukraine’s key war resources. Strikes on rail targets, on the other hand, are a “legitimate” effort to disrupt supply lines, he said.
“The illegitimate reason is that they know people are trying to leave the country, and this is just another intimidation, terrorist tactic to make them lose the faith and confidence to travel on the rails.”
Phillips P. O’Brien, a professor of strategic studies at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, said war is settling into a campaign of losses and incremental gains on the battlefield.
“Both sides are getting weaker every day,” he said.
In Transnistria, a breakaway region of Moldova next to the Ukrainian border, several explosions believed to be caused by rocket-propelled grenades hit the territory’s State Security Ministry. There were no immediate claims of liability or reports of injuries. Transnistria is a strip of land with approximately 470,000 inhabitants. About 1,500 Russian soldiers are based there.
The Moldovan Foreign Ministry said that “the purpose of today’s incident is to create pretexts to strain the security situation in the Transnistria region”. .
Last week, Rustam Minnekayev, a Russian military commander, said the Kremlin wanted full control of southern Ukraine, to pave the way for Transnistria.
Around 2,000 Ukrainian soldiers holed up in a steelworks in Mariupol, a strategic southern port city, pinned down Russian forces, apparently preventing them from joining the offensive elsewhere in Donbass. Over the weekend, Russian forces launched new airstrikes on the Azovstal factory in an attempt to dislodge resisters.
Some 1,000 civilians are also said to have taken refuge in the steelworks.
The city council and mayor of Mariupol said a new mass grave had been identified about 10 kilometers (6 miles) north of the city. Mayor Vadym Boychenko said authorities were trying to estimate the number of casualties. It was at least the third new mass grave discovered in Russian-controlled areas near Mariupol last week.
Mariupol has been ravaged by shelling and heavy street fighting over the past two months. Capturing the city by Russia would deprive Ukraine of a vital port and give Moscow a land corridor to the Crimean peninsula, which it seized from Ukraine in 2014.
In his nightly video address, Zelenskyy said Ukraine is maintaining its resistance to “make the occupiers’ stay on our land even more intolerable” while Russia is draining its resources.
Britain said it believed 15,000 Russian troops had been killed in Ukraine since the Russian invasion began. Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said 25% of Russian combat units sent to Ukraine “have been rendered non-combat effective”.
Ukrainian officials said around 2,500 to 3,000 Ukrainian soldiers had been killed by mid-April.
Gambrell reported from Lviv, Ukraine. Associated Press reporter Yuras Karmanau in Lviv and AP staff around the world contributed to this report.
Follow AP coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine
David Keyton and Jon Gambrell, Associated Press