Russia’s top diplomat warned Ukraine against provoking World War III and said the threat of a nuclear conflict “should not be underestimated” as his country unleashed attacks against rail and fuel installations far from the front lines of Moscow’s new eastern offensive.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov blasted the West yesterday, telling Russian state media that arming Ukraine and providing aid are only making matters worse.
“Everyone is reciting incantations that in no case can we allow World War III,” Lavrov said, adding, “I would not want to elevate those risks artificially. Many would like that. The danger is serious, real. And we must not underestimate it.”
He told Russian state media: “NATO, in essence, is engaged in a war with Russia through a proxy and is arming that proxy. War means war.”
US defense secretary Lloyd Austin said the US wants to see Ukraine remain a democratic country, but also wants “to see Russia weakened to the point where it can’t do things like invade Ukraine.”
In an apparent response to Austin, Lavrov said Russia has “a feeling that the West wants Ukraine to continue to fight and, as it seems to them, wear out, exhaust the Russian army and the Russian military industrial war complex. This is an illusion.”
As defense ministers gathered in Germany for “very critical” US-hosted talks, Lavrov said the West’s continued aid to Ukraine means the NATO alliance has positioned itself as “in essence engaged in war with Russia”.
General Mark Milley, chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, said a key goal of the talks was to make sure Ukraine is well-equipped to continue defense, including heavy weaponry, well-armed drones, and ammunition.
“The next several weeks will be very, very critical,” Milley said. “They need continued support in order to be successful on the battlefield. And that’s really the purpose of this conference.”
Speaking after his trip to Ukraine, Austin said: “They [Ukraine] can win if they have the right equipment, the right support.”
On Monday, Russia focused its firepower elsewhere, with missiles and warplanes striking far behind the front lines to try to thwart Ukrainian supply efforts.
Five railroad stations in central and western Ukraine were hit, and one worker was killed, said Oleksandr Kamyshin, head of Ukraine’s state railway. The bombardment included a missile attack near Lviv, the western city near the Polish border that has been swelled by Ukrainians fleeing the violence elsewhere.
Ukrainian authorities said at least five people were killed by Russian strikes in the central Vynnytsia region.
Russia also destroyed an oil refinery and fuel depots in Kremenchuk, in central Ukraine, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said. In all, Russian warplanes destroyed 56 Ukrainian targets, he said.
Philip Breedlove, a retired U.S. general who was NATO’s top commander from 2013- 2016, said the strikes on fuel depots are meant to deplete key Ukrainian war resources. Strikes against rail targets, on the other hand, are a “legitimate” effort to disrupt supply lines, he said.