An explosion at an optical-mechanical plant near Moscow injured at least 45 people, Reuters reported Wednesday, citing local officials.
The factory manufactures night vision equipment and binoculars for the Russian military and is part of Russian defense conglomerate Rostec. Russian emergency services blamed the explosion on “workflow violations” and rejected reports of a drone strike.
Separately, two drones were shot down upon approaching Moscow overnight, Russian officials said, in the latest of a growing number of interceptions by the Russian capital’s air defense systems. There was no damage or injuries, the Russian Ministry of Defense said.
In his nightly address on Tuesday, Zelensky said that the death toll from Russia’s Monday strikes on Pokrovsk in eastern Donetsk had risen to nine, with another 82 people injured. A missile reportedly destroyed a popular hotel near the front line.
Denise Brown, the United Nations’ humanitarian coordinator for Ukraine, said she was “profoundly disturbed” by the “horrifying attack” on Pokrovsk, which she estimated hit residential buildings, “killing and injuring scores of civilians.” Brown said missiles struck the same location twice, meaning that front-line workers were hit.
Ukraine Confirms Crimea bridge hit
The Ukrainian armed forces on Sunday confirmed that they had hit the Chonhar and Henichesk bridges leading to Crimea, a region of the country which Russia illegally annexed in 2014.
“At around 15.00, the defense forces struck the Chonhar and Henichesk bridges, which are important communication routes of the invaders,” the armed forces said in a statement on Sunday.
Earlier, Russia said that Ukraine fired missiles at the Chonhar bridge that connects the Kherson region to the Crimean Peninsula.
“Kyiv terrorists fired NATO Storm Shadow missiles at the Chonhar bridge and the village of Chonhar. The bridge was damaged by a rocket,” Vladimir Saldo, the Russian-installed head of Ukraine’s Kherson region, said in a statement on Telegram.
In a separate statement, Sergey Aksyonov, the Russian-installed head of Crimea, said on Telegram that some missiles were shot down by air defense systems and that there were no casualties.
White House expects continued support from bipartisan lawmakers on next Ukraine funding request
The White House said it has seen “solid support from the American people” when it comes to financing Ukraine’s fight against the full-scale Russian invasion.
“We have seen throughout this war solid support from the American people, solid support from the Congress in a bipartisan and bicameral way for continuing to support Ukraine. And we are going to stay focused on that,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters on a conference call.
The Biden administration is expected to submit its next financial request to Congress soon. The Pentagon said on Tuesday that the US has approximately $6 billion in congressionally approved funds.
“The President will continue to make the case that the greater national security obligations are at play here, including our national security and the national security commitments that we have made through the NATO alliance,” Kirby added.
‘We’re hopeful:’ U.S. says of Russia returning to Black Sea grain deal
US Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said the Biden administration is hopeful that Russia will return to the Black Sea Grain Initiative.
The deal, which Moscow abandoned nearly a month ago, reopened three Ukrainian ports amid Russia’s naval blockade for agricultural exports. The agreement allowed for more than 1,000 ships carrying nearly 33 million metric tons of agricultural products to more than 40 global destinations.
“We’re hopeful. The Secretary-General has not given up. The Government of Türkiye is working along with him to urge the Russians to come back into the deal, and we support those efforts,” Thomas-Greenfield said in an interview with Carolyn Beeler of PRX’s The World.
“Hopefully, through the efforts of the Secretary-General, they will eventually come to the right decision,” she added.
US Treasury imposes additional sanctions on Belarusian regime for Putin’s war in Ukraine
The Biden administration imposed sanctions on eight Belarusian citizens, five entities, and identified an aircraft as blocked property, according to an announcement by the Treasury Department.
“In line with our partners and allies, we will continue to ensure that the regime pays a price for its abysmal treatment of its own citizens and that our measures in response to Russia’s aggression cannot be circumvented through Belarus,” wrote Brian Nelson, undersecretary of Treasury’s Terrorism and Financial Intelligence unit, in a statement.
At least 35 injured in explosion at factory near Moscow, Russian media reports
At least 35 people were injured after an explosion at an optical-mechanical plant near Moscow, Russian media reported. The facility manufactures night vision equipment and binoculars for the Russian military and is part of Rostec, a large Russian defense conglomerate.
The explosion at the Zagorsk plant in the town of Sergiyev Posad prompted a total evacuation from nearby buildings and caused “damage to social facilities,” with emergency services working at the scene, according to state media agency Tass.
“There are a lot of buildings that had windows blown out,” Sergiyev Posad’s administration wrote on its Telegram channel, according to a Google translation.
Russian emergency services are blaming the explosion on “workflow violations” and rejecting reports of a possible drone strike, state media outlet RIA Novosti said.
Videos posted to social media on both Russian and Ukrainian Telegram and Twitter accounts show a massive mushroom cloud emanating from the factory with plumes rising high into the sky. Ukrainian officials have already cast doubt on Russia’s claim that the explosion was caused internally.
Russia to strengthen forces on western border, defense minister says
Russia will aim to build up its forces on its western border, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told a military meeting Wednesday, according to a transcript posted by the department.
“The United States is steadily raising the stakes, seeking from its allies deliveries of increasingly long-range and deadly weapons. In May, British long-range Storm Shadow air-launched guided missiles were transferred to Ukraine,” Shoigu said.
“Threats to the military security of the Russian Federation have multiplied in the western and north-western strategic directions.”
Shoigu said there was a “serious destabilizing factor” from the accession of Finland and planned accession of Sweden to NATO, as well as an existing risk from the “militarization of Poland.”
UK announces new Russia sanctions targeting access to military equipment
Britain’s foreign office on Tuesday announced 25 new Russia-related sanctions that the UK said represent the “biggest ever UK action on military suppliers in third countries.”
The sanctions apply to individuals and business based in Turkey, Dubai, Slovakia and Switzerland, which the UK says are supporting the invasion of Ukraine by providing Russia with access to electronics used in military equipment.
The UK also extended sanctions on several Belarusian defense organizations.
“The Russian defense industry is severely stretched and focused entirely on sustaining the war. Unable to access Western components, the Russian military is struggling to produce sufficient top-end equipment and is now desperately searching for foreign armaments,” the foreign office said.
“Today’s package tackles Russia’s attempts to circumvent and offset these clear impacts of UK and allies’ sanctions.”