Russia Strikes Rail, Fuel Facilities In Ukraine as War Stretches into a Second Month
Russian troops struck rail and fuel facilities in Ukraine on Monday, hitting critical infrastructure targets further into the country and outside of Russia’s eastern offensive.
Maksym Kozyytskyy, Lviv region governor, told the Associated Press (AP) that a Russian missile hit a railway facility in Krasne on Monday morning, starting a fire. “Oleksandr Kamyshin, the head of the state-run Ukrainian Railways, said a total of five rail facilities in central and western Ukraine have been hit by the Russian strikes,” the AP reports. “He said the attacks have delayed at least 16 passenger trains.”
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Also on Monday, a major fire broke out at an oil depot in western Russia. Russia’s Emergencies Ministry said that “a huge blaze erupted overnight at the depot owned by Transneft-Druzhba, a subsidiary of the Russian state-controlled company Transneft, which operates the western-bound Druzhba (Friendship) pipeline carrying crude to Europe,” according to the AP. “It wasn’t immediately clear what caused the blaze, and whether it could affect deliveries to Europe.”
Two months into the war, Russia has been focused on seizing control of Ukraine’s eastern region—Dunbas—which has led to some of the largest battles in Europe since the end of World War II, the Kyiv Independent reports.
“After withdrawing from Ukraine’s north, Russia has spent the past three weeks redeploying these forces and moving up fresh reserves,” according to the Kyiv Independent. “Much of the manpower has been sent to Russia’s Belgorod Oblast bordering Ukraine, as well as to the vicinity of the key city of Izium in Ukraine’s Kharkiv Oblast. The Izium axis is expected to try and advance farther southeast towards the city of Slovyansk. At the same time, another major axis coming from the south in Zaporizhia and parts of Donetsk oblasts are to meet up at the Slovyansk-Kramatorsk area in central Donbas.”
As part of this effort, Russia is attempting to seize control of the strategic port city of Mariupol. Ukraine’s ability to hold the city has so far prevented approximately 10,000 Russian troops from being deployed to Donbas.
“A small group of Ukrainian troops holed up in a steel plant in the strategic city of Mariupol are tying down Russian forces, and keeping them from being added to the offensive elsewhere in the Donbas,” according to information from Britain’s Ministry of Defense obtained by the AP. “Over the weekend, Russian forces launched fresh airstrikes on the steel plant in an attempt to dislodge the estimated 2,000 fighters inside. Some 1,000 civilians are also sheltering in the steelworks, and the Russian military pledged to open a humanitarian corridor Monday for them to leave.”
This offer, however, has been met with skepticism because previous pledges to open corridors to allow civilians to be evacuated have not been held up by Russian forces. Instead, Ukrainian officials have asked the United Nations to oversee an evacuation route out of Mariupol because they do not consider Russia’s offer to be a safe option. During the first month of the war, for instance, Russian attacks halted plans to create a humanitarian corridor out of Mariupol.
“Food, water, and medicine, and almost all other supplies were in desperately short supply in the port city of Mariupol, where Russian and Ukrainian forces had agreed to an 11-hour cease-fire to allow civilians and the wounded to be evacuated,” CBS News reported on 6 March 2022. “But Russian attacks quickly closed the corridor, Ukrainian officials said.”
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The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) estimated at the beginning of April that Russia had lost 7,000 to 15,000 troops so far in the war. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has recorded 5,718 civilian casualties from the war—2,665 killed and 3,053 injured—as of Monday.
“Most of the civilian casualties recorded were caused by the use of explosive weapons with a wide impact area, including shelling from heavy artillery and multiple launch rocket systems, and missile and airstrikes,” the commission confirmed. “OHCHR believes that the actual figures are considerably higher, as the receipt of information from some locations where intense hostilities have been going has been delayed and many reports are still pending. This concerns, for example, Mariupol (Donetsk region), Izium (Kharkiv region), and Popasana (Luhansk region), where there are allegations of numerous civilian casualties.”
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has called for “immediate and unimpeded access” to Mariupol to help evacuate civilians and wounded individuals.
“The ICRC is deeply alarmed by the situation in Mariupol, where the population is in dire need of assistance. Immediate and unimpeded humanitarian access is urgently required to allow for the voluntary safe passage of thousands of civilians and hundreds of wounded out of the city, including from the Azovstal plant area,” the committee said in a statement.
The International Criminal Court’s (ICC’s) prosecution office is also sending a joint investigation team to Ukraine, Lithuania, and Poland to investigate possible war crimes. The ICC signed an agreement Monday morning to join Eurojust’s efforts to investigate.
“With this agreement, parties are sending a clear message that all efforts will be undertaken to effectively gather evidence on core international crimes committed in Ukraine and bring those responsible to justice,” according to a Eurojust statement obtained by Reuters.
Additionally, Ukraine’s Cyberpolice is asking individuals to provide the department with digital evidence of war crimes committed by the Russian army.
“Evidence from private CCTV servers, mobile devices, cloud storage, available to individuals, will greatly assist the investigation in documenting and prosecuting Russian aggressors for war crimes,” the department said.
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- In addition to the human toll of the war in Ukraine, researchers are also raising concerns about the environmental impact Russia’s invasion is having. For instance, the Donbas region is very industrialized with collieries, metallurgical plants, mines, and operations that use a variety of chemicals that if released into the environment can contaminate water, soil, and land, according to the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI).
“As more territory falls under Russian control and shelling continues, the environmental risks increase,” RUSI said. “In the first week of the Russian invasion in 2022, more than 20 industrial sites were experiencing environmentally damaging spills, explosions, or fires. Tools for monitoring these sites were also hit by cyberattacks, undermining efforts to address the environmental risks and their potential long-term impact.”
- U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Ukraine on Sunday to meet with President Zelensky as a show of support. Blinken said the United States will reopen its embassy in Kyiv, and U.S. President Joe Biden announced he will send an additional $800 million in military aid to Ukraine—including equipment to be used to slow Russia’s eastern offensive. Austin will also travel to Germany to meet with other defense officials for a Ukraine Defense Consultive Group discussion.
“The goal is to bring together stakeholders from all around the world for a series of meetings on the latest Ukraine defense needs and—and this is critically important—ensuring that Ukraine’s enduring security and sovereignty over the long term is respected and developed,” said Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby.
- In France, voters re-elected President Emmanuel Macron for a second term. European officials expressed relief after the tally was announced that voters chose Macron instead of his challenger, far-right politician Marine Le Pen, despite record low turnout. Ukrainian President Zelensky and other world leaders tweeted out their congratulations to Macron, calling him a “real friend of Ukraine.”
Le Pen ran on an anti-immigration platform, and EU officials were concerned that if she won she would unravel Western institutions.
“Especially while a war rages in Ukraine that has united European leaders to an unusual degree, a Le Pen win would have sent a shock wave through NATO and imperiled the flow of French weaponry that has quietly flowed to Kyiv,” The Washington Post reports. “A Le Pen presidency also would have replaced a fervent EU defender with a fierce critic. France and Germany are Europe’s pillars, and policymakers in capitals across the continent had been watching the election with anxiety.”