Russia declares plans to grab more land in Ukraine

Russia_Ukraine_36889 In this handout photo released by Russian Defense Ministry Press Service on Wednesday, July 20, 2022, Russian soldiers fire a mortar from their position at an undisclosed location in Ukraine.
Russia_Ukraine_03631 In this handout photo released by Russian Defense Ministry Press Service on Wednesday, July 20, 2022, a Russian Mi-28 anti-armor attack helicopter fires rockets on a mission at an undisclosed location in Ukraine.
Russia_Ukraine_War_EU_41918 In this photo provided by the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry Press Office, Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg, right, and Czech Republic's Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky, second left, pass by houses destroyed by the Russian shelling in Hostomel, close to Kyiv, Ukraine, Wednesday, July 20, 2022.
Russia_Ukraine_War_EU_96323 In this photo provided by the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry Press Office, Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg, second right, and Czech Republic's Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky, center, talk with local authorities against the background of the houses destroyed by the Russian shelling in Hostomel, close to Kyiv, Ukraine, Wednesday, July 20, 2022.
Russia_Ukraine_72523 In this handout photo taken from video released by Russian Defense Ministry Press Service on Wednesday, July 20, 2022, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu listens as he inspects Russian troops at an undisclosed location in Ukraine. Shoigu inspected the troops in eastern Ukraine, ordering them to act more aggressively to down Ukrainian drones and prevent Ukraine's army from shelling the areas that have been taken by Russian forces.
Ukrainian servicemen shoot with SPG-9 recoilless gun during training in Kharkiv region, Ukraine, Tuesday, July 19, 2022.
Russia_Ukraine_War_88614 Ukrainian servicemen clean mortar shells during training in Kharkiv region, Ukraine, Tuesday, July 19, 2022.
Russia_Ukraine_War_96710 Ukrainian servicemen clean mortar shells during training in Kharkiv region, Ukraine, Tuesday, July 19, 2022.
Russia_Ukraine_War_67458 Ukrainian servicemen carry ammunition during training in Kharkiv region, Ukraine, Tuesday, July 19, 2022.
Russia_Ukraine_War_03747 Serhiy Melnyk "Marsel", general of the Ukrainian army, right, hugs a comrade in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, July 19, 2022.
Russia_Ukraine_War_49952 Ukrainian servicemen shoot with 82mm mortar during training in Kharkiv region, Ukraine, Tuesday, July 19, 2022.
US_Ukraine_First_Lady_50965 Olena Zelenska, the first lady of Ukraine, addresses members of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, July 20, 2022.
US_Ukraine_First_Lady_73615 House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., stands with Olena Zelenska, the first lady of Ukraine, as she arrives to address members of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, July 20, 2022.
APTOPIX_Russia_Ukraine_War_76515 Resident Olena smokes her cigarette after her kitchen's windows broke in the aftermath of a rocket attack at a residential area, in Kramatorsk, eastern Ukraine, Tuesday, July 19, 2022.
APTOPIX_Russia_Ukraine_War_55886 Mykola Zavodovskyi, right, and Tetiana Zavodovska, injured from a rocket attack that hit a five-story building, leave after receiving treatment at a hospital, in Kramatorsk, eastern Ukraine, Tuesday, July 19, 2022.
Belgium_EU_Russia_Ukraine_Energy_57378 European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, center, and European Commissioner for European Green Deal Frans Timmermans address a media conference at EU headquarters in Brussels on Wednesday, July 20, 2022. The European Union's head office on Wednesday proposed that member states cut their gas use by 15% over the coming months that any full Russian cutoff of natural gas supplies to the bloc will not fundamentally disrupt industries and send an additional chill through homes next winter.
APTOPIX_Russia_Ukraine_War_11199 Ukrainian servicemen shoot with SPG-9 recoilless gun during training in Kharkiv region, Ukraine, Tuesday, July 19, 2022.
APTOPIX_Russia_Ukraine_War_50316 A woman salvages what she can from her damaged apartment, after a rocket hit her five-story residential building, in Kramatorsk, eastern Ukraine, Tuesday, July 19, 2022.
Russia_Ukraine_War_13488 Men transfer the body of a victim killed by Russian shelling onto a stretcher in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Wednesday, July 20, 2022.
Russia_Ukraine_War_85216 Rescuers load the body of a victim killed by Russian shelling in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Wednesday, July 20, 2022.
Russia_Ukraine_War_78873 A police officer, right, comforts a man as he holds the hand of a relative killed in Russian shelling in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Wednesday, July 20, 2022.
Russia_Ukraine_War_18861 Men move the body of a victim killed by Russian shelling onto a stretcher in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Wednesday, July 20, 2022.
(1/22)

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukrainian forces on Wednesday damaged a bridge that is key to supplying Russian troops in southern Ukraine, where Russia’s foreign minister said Moscow will consolidate its territorial gains.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told state-controlled RT television and the RIA Novosti news agency that Russia plans to retain control over broader areas beyond eastern Ukraine, including the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions in the south, and will make more gains elsewhere.

Lavrov’s remarks and the Ukrainian missile attack on the strategically important Kherson region bridge indicated the nearly five-month war could broaden after unfolding mostly in eastern Ukraine since April.

Russia’s top diplomat noted that when Russia and Ukraine in March discussed a possible deal to end the fighting, “Our readiness to accept the Ukrainian proposal was based on the geography of March 2022.”

“Now it’s a different geography,” Lavrov said, repeating Moscow’s claims that the United States and Britain were encouraging Ukraine to expand the hostilities.

With Western countries providing Ukraine with longer-range weapons, Lavrov said Russia’s “geographical tasks will be pushed even further from the current line because we cannot allow the part of Ukraine under control of Zelenskyy or whoever comes to succeed him, to have weapons that will pose a direct threat to our territory and the territories of those republics that have declared their independence.”

Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24 and quickly seized territory, but withdrew from the capital region and north to concentrate on seizing Donetsk and Luhansk provinces, which pro-Moscow separatists have partly controlled since 2014.

As Russian forces captured more of the two provinces, which together make up Ukraine’s industrial Donbas region, Ukrainian officials planned a counter-offensive to retake Russian-occupied areas in the south.

The Ukrainian strike on the Dnipro River bridge, the second in as many days, appeared intended to loosen Russia’s grip on the southern Kherson region.

Kirill Stremousov, deputy head of a temporary, Russian-installed administration running the region, said the Ukrainian military struck the Antonivskyi Bridge using U.S.-supplied HIMARS multiple rocket launchers. The 1.4-kilometer (0.9-mile) bridge is the main river crossing in the Kherson region, and the Russian military uses it to supply its forces. Stremousov said that because of the bridge damage, pontoons would be constructed over the river, also known as the Dnieper.

The head of the Moscow-appointed Kherson administration, Vladimir Saldo, said cars could continue driving across the bridge but trucks couldn’t and instead could use a dam 80 kilometers (50 miles) away.

Early in the war, Russian troops overran the Kherson region just north of the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia annexed in 2014. They have faced Ukrainian counterattacks, but have largely held their ground.

Kherson — site of ship-building at the confluence of the Dnipro River and Black Sea — is one of several areas a U.S. government spokesman said Russia is trying to take over.

White House national security council spokesman John Kirby said Tuesday that U.S. intelligence officials have evidence that Russia wants to annex Kherson, Zaporizhzhia and all of the Donbas through referendums, as soon as September.

In Zaporizhzhia, Russian-installed authorities claimed Wednesday that Ukraine’s military had used drones to attack the local nuclear power plant, Europe’s largest. Vladimir Rogov, a local Moscow-appointed official, said three Ukrainian attack drones had hit the plant’s territory with explosives but not its reactor area. All normal operations continued, and no release of radiation was detected, he said. Russia’s state news agency Tass reported 11 plant workers were injured, four seriously. The news agency later quoted a Russian military official as saying the attack had occurred Monday.

Ukrainian authorities, who have over the past months reported Russian missiles almost hitting the plant, did not immediately comment on the report.

The bulk of Russia’s forces are fighting in the Donbas, where they have made slow gains facing Ukrainian resistance. The Russian military has used long-range missiles to strike targets across Ukraine, killing hundreds of civilians.

Ukraine’s presidential office said at least 13 civilians were killed and 40 wounded in Russian shelling across the country in a 24-hour period between Tuesday and Wednesday.

On Wednesday, at least three more people died when Russia bombarded the northeastern city of Kharkiv with Hurricane salvo rocket systems. The victims, who were waiting at a bus stop, included a 69-year-old man, his wife and a 13-year-old boy.

The boy’s 15-year-old sister was injured, according to the Kharkiv Regional Prosecutor’s Office. Video showed the boy’s father, apparently in a state of shock, praying above his son’s uncovered body and holding his hand.

Russia has repeatedly accused Ukraine of launching cross-border attacks. Another such report came Wednesday, when Belgorod Gov. Vyacheslav Gladkov said on Telegram that Ukrainian forces had fired on two Russian border villages.

Most villagers were previously evacuated under a state of emergency, but Gladkov said the latest attack killed a man, and damaged homes and a village club.

In other developments Wednesday:

— An Associated Press investigation has found that many refugees from Ukraine are forced to embark on a surreal trip into Russia, subjected along the way to human rights abuses, stripped of documents and left confused and lost about where they are.

—U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Wednesday that Ukraine has been using U.S-supplied HIMARS rocket launchers effectively and would provide four more, bringing the total to 16. The truck-mounted HIMARS launchers fire GPS-guided missiles that can reach targets up to 80 kilometers (50 miles) away.

— Ukraine’s first lady, Olena Zelenska, appealed to American lawmakers during a speech at the U.S. Capitol for more air defense systems to protect her country’s skies. In her unsparing Capitol address, Zelenska shared images of blood-stained baby strollers and small crumpled bodies left after Russian missile attacks.

— The European Union’s head office proposed that member states cut their natural gas use by 15% over the coming months to ensure that any full Russian cutoff of natural gas supplies will not cause unmanageable winter disruptions. While the initial cuts would be voluntary, the European Commission also asked for the power to impose mandatory reductions across the bloc in the event of a severe gas shortage or exceptionally high demand.

Zelenskyy, in a Wednesday night video address, said Europe should have reduced its dependence on Russian gas previously. “If our position had been listened to earlier,” he said, “we would not have had to look for emergency ways to fill the deficit that Russia is artificially creating on the European market.”

— In a sign of the crippling economic impact of the war, the Ukrainian government said it would ask investors to allow the country to postpone foreign debt payments for two years. Leaders of a group of creditors said they agreed to the delay and urged bondholders to do the same.

___

Follow the AP’s coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

Copyright © 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up