Drone attack hits Ukraine; US promises ‘consequences’ of nuclear weapons

Kyiv, Ukraine –

An overnight drone strike near the Ukrainian port of Odessa sparked a massive fire and explosion, the military said on Monday, as Russia’s leadership faced growing resistance to its efforts to summon hundreds of thousands of men to fight in Ukraine.

The airstrike in Odessa was the latest in a series of drone attacks on the key southern city in recent days, hitting a military facility and detonating munitions when it hit. Firefighters were struggling to contain the blaze and nearby civilians were evacuated, the Ukrainian army’s southern command said.

It came hours after the United States vowed to take decisive action and promised “catastrophic consequences” if Russia uses nuclear weapons in Ukraine. Concerns are growing that Russia may try to escalate the conflict once it completes what Ukraine and the West consider illegal referendums in parts of Ukraine under its control.

The vote, which ends Tuesday, came after thousands of residents fled and includes footage of armed Russian troops going door-to-door to pressure Ukrainians into voting. Russia announced the “referendums” as its war against Ukraine has stalled amid a Ukrainian counteroffensive.

“Every night and day there is unavoidable shelling in Donbas, under the roar of which people are forced to vote for Russian ‘peace’,” Donetsk regional governor Pavlo Kirilenko said on Monday.

Russia is widely expected to declare the results in its favor, a step that could see Moscow annex the territory and give it a pretext to defend it as its own territory under the Russian nuclear umbrella.

Jake Sullivan, the US national security adviser, said Russia would pay a high, though unspecified, price if it followed through on its veiled threats to use nuclear weapons in the conflict.

“If Russia crosses this line, there will be catastrophic consequences for Russia. The United States will respond decisively,” she told NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday.

On Monday, Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko held an unannounced meeting in the southern Russian city of Sochi, saying they were ready to cooperate with the West, “if they treat us with respect,” Putin said. .

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Monday that Putin had told Turkey’s president during their meeting in Uzbekistan last week that Moscow was ready to resume negotiations with Ukraine, but had “new conditions” for it. a ceasefire. The minister did not elaborate on the conditions.

The Kremlin last week announced a partial mobilization to add at least 300,000 troops to its force in Ukraine in the run-up to votes in the occupied regions. The move, a sharp departure from Vladimir Putin’s earlier efforts to portray the war as a limited military operation that would not interfere with the lives of most Russians, proved extremely unpopular at home.

Thousands of men of fighting age flocked to Russia’s airports and land border crossings in an effort to avoid conscription. Protests raged in various parts of the country, with Russian media reporting an increasing number of arson attacks on military enlistment offices, including one that hit the southern city of Uryupinsk.

In another unusually bold attack, a young man entered a military enlistment office in the Siberian city of Ust-Ilimsk on Monday and shot the military commander at close range.

Russian media reports claimed the man entered the facility saying “no one is going to fight” and “we are all going home now”. Local authorities said the military commander was in intensive care, without giving further details.

The man, identified in the media as 25-year-old local resident Ruslan Zinin, was reportedly upset that a call notice was sent to his best friend who had no combat experience, which authorities have said is the main project criteria.

Meanwhile, the first batches of Russian troops mobilized by Moscow have started arriving at military bases, the British military said on Monday.

In an online intelligence briefing, the British Ministry of Defense said that tens of thousands had been summoned so far. However, the Russians face challenges ahead, the ministry said.

“The Russian military provides low-level initial training to soldiers within their designated operational units, rather than at dedicated training establishments,” he said.

Under normal circumstances, two battalions are deployed while a third stays behind to train. But in the Ukraine war, even the third battalion is being deployed, weakening that training, the British Ministry of Defense said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Sunday that the Russian mobilization, the first of its kind since World War II, was a sign of weakness: “They admitted that their army can no longer fight Ukraine.”

Zelenskyy said in a Facebook post on Monday that the Ukrainian military is boosting efforts to recapture “the entire territory of Ukraine” and has drawn up plans to counter “new types of weapons” used by Russia, without elaborating.

New Russian shelling hit the area around the Zaporozhzhia nuclear power plant, according to Zelenskyy’s office. The cities near the station were attacked nine times in the last few hours by rocket launchers and heavy artillery.

In the city of Izium in eastern Ukraine, which Russian forces abandoned earlier this month after a Ukrainian counteroffensive, Margaryta Tkachenko is still recovering from the battle that destroyed her home and left her family on the brink of starvation. .

With no gas, electricity, running water or internet, he said: “I can’t predict what will happen next. Winter is the scariest. We don’t have wood. How will we heat?”


Yuras Karmanau in Tallinn, Estonia, and Lori Hinnant in Izium, Ukraine, contributed to this report.

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