Moscow confirms airstrikes in western Ukraine
On Friday morning, Russia carried out strikes on military infrastructure sites in western Ukraine using long-range precision weapons, the Defense Ministry said in a briefing. The strikes destroyed airfields near the cities of Lutsk and Ivano-Frankivsk, the military claimed.
The attacks were confirmed by regional authorities in both cities, which are located in the southwest and northwest of Ukraine, respectively.
Over the course of 24 hours, Russian warplanes destroyed 107 military sites of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov said. This increased the total number of military infrastructure targets reported by Russia as destroyed during the campaign to 3,213.
Turkish-made Baykar Bayraktar TB2 attack drones were the primary target for Russian air defense forces on Thursday, according to the briefing. A total of eight such aircraft were taken down by Russian troops, in addition to three Ukrainian Mil Mi-24 helicopters, Konashenkov said.
The Russian forces and their allies from the breakaway Donetsk and Lugansk republics have made further advances on the ground in eastern Ukraine, the official said. The city of Volnovakha, one of the strongholds of the Ukrainian troops, has been captured by Donetsk rebels, he said.
The Russian incursion into Ukraine is now in its third week. Moscow claims the attack was necessary to eliminate threats emanating from Ukraine towards its breakaway regions and Russia itself.
Kiev and its foreign backers called the Russian move an unprovoked act of aggression. Western nations hit Moscow with harsh economic sanctions intended to devastate the Russian economy.
Russia attacked its neighbor in late February, following a seven-year standoff over Ukraine’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, and Moscow’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics in Donetsk and Lugansk. The German- and French-brokered protocols had been designed to regularize the status of those regions within the Ukrainian state.
Russia has now demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two republics by force.