The Kremlin claimed Wednesday that Ukraine had tried to strike the Kremlin with drones overnight but said the attack on the heart of the Russian government was “successfully repulsed.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin was not injured in the purported attack, which was reported by Russian state media agency TASS on Wednesday. The Kremlin provided no evidence to back up the claim of an attempted attack, however.
Ukrainian officials denied any involvement in the alleged attack and said it might suggest Russia is planning a large-scale “terrorist” attack against Ukraine in the coming days.
Blinken says US cannot validate accusation that Ukraine attempted to kill Putin
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday said the US cannot validate Russia’s accusation that Ukraine tried to strike the Kremlin in an attempt to assassinate Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to Reuters.
Blinken said he would take anything coming from the Kremlin with a “very large shaker of salt,” according to the report.
He also reiterated the United States’ support for Ukraine and said he feels confident that the country will be successful in its effort to retake more of its territory.
Ukraine denied any involvement in the alleged drone attack.
A senior Ukrainian presidential official, Mykhailo Podolyak, said Ukraine had nothing to do with the drone strike, stating on Twitter that “Ukraine wages an exclusively defensive war and does not attack targets on the territory of the Russian Federation.”
Rather, he said the allegations suggest Russia was planning a large-scale “terrorist” attack against Ukraine in the coming days.
Serhii Nikiforov, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s spokesman, also told the Ukrainian Pravda news outlet that Kyiv was not involved in the incident.
“We have no information about the so-called night attacks on the Kremlin, but as President Zelenskyy has repeatedly stated, Ukraine directs all available forces and means to liberate its own territories, not to attack foreign ones,” he told the news outlet in comments translated by NBC News.
Nikiforov said Russia’s description of the incident as a “terrorist” attack was interesting given Russia’s repeated attacks against Ukrainian territory over the course of the war.
“A terrorist attack is the destroyed houses in Dnipro and Uman, or a rocket fired at the train station in Kramatorsk and many other tragedies. And what happened in Moscow was obviously an escalation of the situation in light of May 9,” alluding to Russia’s upcoming Victory Day parade commemorating the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany in World War II.
Russian strike in Kherson region kills 16 civilians
Sixteen civilians were killed Wednesday in heavy Russian shelling of Ukraine’s Kherson region, according to Reuters.
Ukrainian officials said the Russian missile strike hit a large store, a railway station and residential buildings.
Twelve of the victims were in the city of Kherson, the southern region’s capital, where a large hypermarket came under fire as people were in the store shopping, Reuters reported.
The news agency said explosions also tore through a railway station in the area and that at least two survivors were seen being carried out on stretchers.
Four more people, including three engineers who were trying to repair the power grid that has been damaged in earlier Russian bombardments, were killed in villages outside the main city.
Ukrainian officials said 22 people had also been wounded in Kherson city in “chaotic shelling and strikes on civilian infrastructure facilities.”
Russia did not comment on the attacks in Kherson, one of four Ukrainian regions it said it annexed last September.
Huge fires burn at Ukrainian and Russian oil depots after drone attacks
Oil facilities in Ukraine and Russia have been targeted in separate incidents reportedly involving drones this week.
Ukrainian officials said a Russian drone strike on an oil depot in the city of Kropyvnytskyi, in the central Kirovohrad region of Ukraine, had caused a major fire. Andriy Raykovych, the head of the Kirovohrad regional military administration, said Russia had used drones to attack the facility during the night.
“Around three in the morning, 3 Geran-2 [Iranian-made Shahed-136 drones] bombers attacked an oil depot in the regional center at once. There were no casualties,” he said on Telegram, adding that emergency services were on the scene. Ukraine’s prosecutor general said that as a result of the drone attack, a “large-scale fire started.”
Meanwhile, it’s believed that a major fire that broke out Wednesday at a fuel depot in a village in the southwestern Russian region of Krasnodar, near the Crimean bridge linking the Russian mainland to the Crimean peninsula annexed by Russia in 2014, was also caused by a drone.
“The fire of a tank with oil products on the territory of the JSC Tamanneftegaz enterprise occurred as a result of the fall of a drone,” TASS reported, citing the emergency services which said a fire had broken out covering almost 1.25 thousand square meters. “Extinguishing is currently ongoing. There are no casualties,” the representative of the emergency services said.
Reuters reported that rail deliveries to Russia’s nearby Black Sea port of Taman would be restricted until further notice.
The news agency reported that videos from Taman posted on Russian social media showed flames and black smoke billowing over large tanks emblazoned with red lettering reading “flammable.”
The latest incident comes after Moscow accused Ukraine of setting fire to an oil depot in Sevastopol in Crimea last weekend.
Ukraine’s military command did not take direct responsibility for the attack but an official noted that the undermining of Russia’s logistics were part of “preparatory” work ahead of its anticipated counteroffensive.
Zelensky Visits Finland
In other news, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky made a surprise trip to Finland where he met the country’s president as well as other Nordic leaders for a summit on Wednesday.
In a joint news conference with Finland’s president, Sauli Niinistö, Mr. Zelensky thanked Finland for its continuous support of “our freedom and territorial integrity and sovereignty.”
Mr. Niinisto and Mr. Zelensky were also expected to meet with the prime ministers of Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Iceland to “discuss the situation of Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine” and “the Nordic countries’ continued support for Ukraine,” as well as Ukraine’s relationship with the European Union and NATO, according to a statement from the Finnish presidency.
The Ukrainian president has made few overseas trips since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Last month he received a hero’s welcome on an official visit to Poland.
US approves $300 million for Ukraine in latest security assistance package
The Biden administration approved a new security assistance package for Ukraine worth $300 million.
The latest military assistance package, the 37th such tranche, brings U.S. commitment to Ukraine’s fight to more than $36 billion since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
The capabilities in the package are:
• Additional ammunition for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or HIMARS
• 155mm Howitzers
• 155mm artillery rounds
• 120mm, 81mm, and 60mm mortar rounds
• Tube-Launched, Optically-Tracked, Wire-Guided, or TOW, missiles
• AT-4 and Carl Gustaf anti-armor weapon systems
• Hydra-70 aircraft rockets
• Small arms and small arms ammunition
• Demolition munitions for obstacle clearing
• Trucks and trailers to transport heavy equipment
• Testing and diagnostic equipment to support vehicle maintenance and repair
• Spare parts and other field equipment
Compiled by Ana Dumbadze