KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin’s new warning to the West against sending longer-range rocket systems to Ukraine came as his forces claimed to have destroyed Western military supplies in their first such airstrikes on Ukraine’s capital in more than a month.
The attack showed that Russia still had the capability and willingness to hit at Ukraine’s heart, despite refocusing its efforts to capture territory in the east.
Putin’s comments, in a TV interview that aired Sunday, came days after the U.S. announced plans to deliver $700 million of security assistance for Ukraine, including four precision-guided, medium-range rocket systems, as well as helicopters, Javelin anti-tank systems, radars, tactical vehicles and more.
“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,” Putin said. He insisted such supplies were unlikely to change the military situation for Ukraine’s government, which he said was merely making up for losses of similar rockets.
If Kyiv gets longer-range rockets, Putin added, 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.”
The U.S. has stopped short of offering Ukraine longer-range weapons that could fire deep into Russia.
Military analysts say Russia hopes to overrun Ukraine’s embattled eastern industrial Donbas region before the arrival of any U.S. weapons that might turn the tide. The Pentagon said last week that it will take at least three weeks to get the U.S. weapons onto the battlefield. Russia-backed separatists have fought the Ukrainian government since 2014 in the Donbas.
Moscow also accused the West of closing off lines of communication by forcing Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s plane to cancel a trip to Serbia for talks Monday.
Serbia’s neighbors closed their airspace to Lavrov’s plane, ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told Italian television in comments reported by Russian news agencies. Earlier in the day, Serbian newspaper Vecernje Novosti had said that Bulgaria, North Macedonia and Montenegro would not allow Lavrov’s plane to come through.
“This is another closed channel of communication,” Zakharova said.
The missiles that struck Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, on Sunday destroyed T-72 tanks supplied by Eastern European countries and other armored vehicles, the Russian Defense Ministry said on the Telegram app.
Ukraine, however, said the missiles hit a train repair shop. Ukraine’s railway authority led reporters on a guided tour of the repair plant in eastern Kyiv that it said was hit by four missiles. The authority said no military equipment had been stored there, and Associated Press reporters saw no remnants of any in the facility’s destroyed building.
“There were no tanks, and you can just be witness to this.” said Serhiy Leshchenko, an adviser to the Ukrainian president’s office.
Yet a government adviser said on national TV that military infrastructure also was targeted. AP reporters saw a building burning in an area near the destroyed railcar plant. Two residents of that district said the warehouse-type structure that billowed smoke was part of a tank-repair facility. Police blocking access to the site told an AP reporter that military authorities had banned the taking of images there.
The Russian Defense Ministry also said air-launched precision missiles were used to destroy workshops in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine, including in Druzhkivka, that were repairing damaged Ukrainian military equipment.
And Ukraine’s General Staff said Russian forces fired five X-22 cruise missiles from the Caspian Sea toward Kyiv, and one was destroyed by air defenses. Four other missiles hit “infrastructure facilities,” but Ukraine said there were no casualties.
Before Sunday’s early morning attack, Kyiv had not faced any such Russian airstrikes since the April 28 visit of U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres.
Russian forces remained focused on capturing Ukraine’s eastern cities of Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk. West of those cities, in the towns of Sloviansk and Bakhmut, cars and military vehicles were seen speeding into town from the direction of the front line. Dozens of military doctors and paramedic ambulances worked to evacuate civilians and Ukrainian servicemen, many of whom had been hurt by artillery shelling.
The U.K. military said in its daily intelligence update that Ukrainian counterattacks in Sieverodonetsk were “likely blunting the operational momentum Russian forces previously gained through concentrating combat units and firepower.” Russian forces had been making a string of advances in the city, but Ukrainian fighters have pushed back in recent days.
The statement also said Russia’s military was partly relying on reserve forces of Luhansk separatists.
“These troops are poorly equipped and trained, and lack heavy equipment in comparison to regular Russian units,” the intelligence update said, adding that the move “indicates a desire to limit casualties suffered by regular Russian forces.”
Story: John Leicester. Associated Press journalists David Keyton and Hanna Arhirova in Kyiv contributed to this report.