He said weapons supplied by Western countries “will be a legitimate target,” adding that Russian forces had already targeted weapons warehouses in western Ukraine.
Lavrov accused Ukrainian leaders of provoking Russia by asking NATO to become involved in the conflict, and he said NATO has effectively “entered into a war with Russia through proxies and is arming those proxies”.
“Everyone is reciting incantations that in no case can we allow World War III,” he said, adding that, by providing weapons, NATO forces are “pouring oil on the fire,” according to a transcript on the Russian Foreign Ministry’s website.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Twitter that Lavrov’s comments underscore Ukraine’s need for Western help: “Russia loses last hope to scare the world off supporting Ukraine. Thus the talk of a ‘real’ danger of WWIII. This only means Moscow senses defeat in Ukraine.”
When Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, its apparent goal was the lightning capture of Kyiv, the capital. But the Ukrainians, with the help of Western weapons, thwarted the push and forced President Vladimir Putin’s troops to retreat.
Moscow now says its goal is to take the Donbas, the mostly Russian-speaking industrial region in eastern Ukraine. While both sides say the campaign in the east is underway, Russia has yet to mount an all-out ground offensive and has not achieved any major breakthroughs.
On Monday, Russia focused its firepower elsewhere, with missiles and warplanes striking far behind the front lines in a bid to thwart Ukrainian efforts to marshal supplies for the fight.
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 close to the Polish border that has been swelled by Ukrainians fleeing the fighting elsewhere around the country.
Russia struck over 90 military targets in Ukraine overnight, killing at least 560 Ukrainian soldiers and destroying dozens of armoured vehicles, artillery and other military equipment, Russia’s defence ministry said on Tuesday.
Russia also said it struck two ammunition depots in Ukraine’s eastern Kharkiv region.
Russia also destroyed an oil refinery in Kremenchuk, in central Ukraine, along with fuel depots there, Russian Defence Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said. In all, Russian warplanes destroyed 56 Ukrainian targets, he said.
Philip Breedlove, a retired US general who was NATO’s top commander from 2013 to 2016, said the latest strikes against fuel depots are part of a strategy to deplete key Ukrainian war resources. The strikes against rail targets, on the other hand, are a newer tactic, he said.
“I think they’re doing it for the legitimate reason of trying to interdict the flow of supplies to the front,” he said. “The illegitimate reason is they know people are trying to leave the country, and this is just another intimidation, terrorist tactic to make them not have faith and confidence in travelling on the rails.”
In Transnistria, a breakaway region of Moldova that sits along the Ukrainian border, several explosions believed to be caused by rocket-propelled grenades hit the territory’s Ministry of State Security. There was no immediate claim of responsibility or reports of injuries. Transnistria is a strip of land with about 470,000 people and 1,500 Russian troops based there.
Moldova’s Foreign Ministry said, “the aim of today’s incident is to create pretexts for straining the security situation in the Transnistrian region”. The US warned previously that Russia may launch “false-flag” attacks against its own side to create a pretext for invading other nations.
Last week, Rustam Minnekayev, a Russian military commander, said the Kremlin wants full control of southern Ukraine, which he said would open the way to Transnistria.
An estimated 2,000 Ukrainian troops holed up in a steel plant in the strategic southern port city of Mariupol are tying down Russian forces and apparently keeping them from being added to the offensive elsewhere in the Donbas. Over the weekend, Russian forces launched new airstrikes on the Azovstal plant to try to dislodge the holdouts.
Some 1,000 civilians were also said to be taking shelter at the steelworks.
The city council and mayor of Mariupol said a new mass grave has been identified about 10 kilometres north of the city. Mayor Vadym Boychenko said authorities were trying to estimate the number of victims. It was at least the third new mass grave discovered in Russian-controlled areas near Mariupol in the last week.
Mariupol has been gutted by bombardment and fierce street fighting over the past two months. In addition to freeing up Russian troops, the capture of the city would deprive Ukraine of a vital port and allow Moscow to establish a land corridor to the Crimean Peninsula, which it seized from Ukraine in 2014.
In his nightly video address, Zelensky said his country’s goal is to maintain resistance and “make the occupiers’ stay in our land even more intolerable,” while Russia drains its resources.