Russia fired a barrage of missiles early Sunday on Kyiv for the first time in more than a month, shattering a sense of normalcy in the Ukrainian capital.
The Russian defense ministry said its forces had destroyed tanks sent to Kyiv by Western governments, even as Russian President Vladimir Putin warned that Moscow would hit targets “we haven’t yet struck” if the West went ahead with plans to send long-range rocket systems to Ukraine.
U.S. President Joe Biden said last week that the United States plans to send $700 million in new weaponry to the Kyiv government that includes four precision-guided, medium-range rocket systems, helicopters, Javelin anti-tank weapon systems, radars, tactical vehicles, spare parts and more.
The U.S. said, however, it will take three weeks to train Ukrainian forces on how to use the rocket systems and deploy them. Washington says it has received assurances from Kyiv it will not use the rockets to target sites inside Russia.
Putin said in a television interview, “All this fuss around additional deliveries of weapons, in my opinion, has only one goal: To drag out the armed conflict as much as possible."
If Kyiv gets longer-range rockets, Putin said, Moscow will "draw appropriate conclusions and use our means of destruction, which we have plenty of, in order to strike at those objects that we haven't yet struck."
He contended that the new weaponry arriving in Ukraine was unlikely to bolster Ukraine’s fortunes and was merely making up for losses of rockets of similar range that they already had.
Ukraine did not immediately confirm the Russian claim that its strikes with high-precision, long-range air-launched missiles had destroyed tanks in Kyiv.
Russia said it had hit railway facilities and other infrastructure in Kyiv, which had not seen such strikes since the April 28 visit of U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres.
Ukraine's nuclear plant operator, Energoatom, said one cruise missile buzzed the Pivdennoukrainsk nuclear plant, about 350 kilometers (220 miles) to the south of Kyiv on its way to the capital, citing the dangers of such a near strike.
The attack on the capital came as Ukraine said a counterattack on the main battlefield in the east had retaken half the city of Sievierodonetsk, which Russia was on the verge of capturing in its entirety last week. It is the last-remaining large industrial city in the Luhansk region held by Ukraine.
Until the renewed attack Sunday on Kyiv, Russia had focused its fighting for weeks in the east, to try to capture the Donbas region, including Sievierodonetsk.
After it had retreated in recent days, Ukraine mounted a counterattack there, which it says took the Russians by surprise. Serhiy Haidai, governor of the Luhansk region that includes Sievierodonetsk, said it was continuing to push the Russians back.
“It had been a difficult situation; the Russians controlled 70% of the city, but over the past two days they have been pushed back," Haidai said on Ukrainian television. "The city is now, more or less, divided in half."
Britain's defense ministry said Sunday that Ukrainian counterattacks were likely to blunt operational momentum that Russian forces had previously gained. It said Russia was deploying poorly equipped separatist fighters in the city to limit the risk to its regular forces.
“The situation is tense, complicated," Mayor Oleksandr Stryuk told national television Saturday, saying there was a shortage of food, fuel and medicine. "Our military is doing everything it can to drive the enemy out of the city."
(Some material in this report came from Reuters and The Associated Press.)