Russia’s top diplomat warned Ukraine not to provoke World War III, saying the threat of a nuclear conflict “should not be underestimated” as his country unleashed attacks on rail and fuel facilities far from the front lines of Russia’s new eastern offensive. Moscow.

Meanwhile, the British Defense Ministry said on Tuesday that Russian forces had taken the Ukrainian city of Kreminna in the Lukansk region after days of street fighting.

“The city of Kreminna is reported to have fallen and heavy fighting is taking place south of Izium as Russian forces attempt to advance towards the cities of Sloviansk and Kramatorsk from the north and east,” the British military said in a tweet. He did not say how he knew that the city, 575 kilometers southeast of the Ukrainian capital, kyiv, had fallen. The Ukrainian government did not immediately comment.

Ukraine’s General Staff said Russian forces were shelling Kharkiv, the country’s second-largest city, as they struggled to take full control of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, which comprise Donbas in Ukraine’s industrial heartland, and establish a land corridor to Crimea.

In the area of ​​Velyka Oleksandrivka, a village in the largely Russian-controlled Kherson region, Ukrainian forces destroyed an ammunition depot and “eliminated” more than 70 Russian soldiers, the General Staff said.

Inna, 53, cries inside her burned house in Ozera, northwest of kyiv on Monday. (Alexey Furman/Getty Images)

Luhansk region governor Serhiy Haidai said on the Telegram messaging app that the Russians had bombed civilians 17 times in the previous 24 hours, with the cities of Popasna, Lysychansk and Girske suffering the most.

Four people were killed and nine more wounded on Monday in Russian shelling of the Donetsk region, its governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said on Telegram. He said a 9-year-old girl and a 14-year-old boy were among the dead.

American weapons make a difference

The United States has been sending more weapons to Ukraine and said assistance from Western allies is making a difference in the two-month war.

“Russia is failing. Ukraine is succeeding,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken declared on Monday after he and the US Secretary of Defense made a daring visit to kyiv to meet with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Klavidia, 91, is carried on a makeshift stretcher as she boards a train, fleeing the war in Severodonetsk at a train station in Pokrovsk on Monday. (Leo Correa/The Associated Press)

Blinken said that Washington has approved a $165 million sale of ammunition — non-US ammunition, mostly, if not all, for Ukraine’s Soviet-era weapons — and will also provide more than $300 million in financing to buy more supplies.

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin went further, saying the US wants Ukraine to remain a sovereign and democratic country, but also wants “to see Russia weakened to the point where it cannot do things like invading Ukraine.

Austin’s comments appeared to represent a shift in US strategic goals, as Washington has previously said the goal of US military aid was to help Ukraine win and defend Ukraine’s NATO neighbors against Russian threats.

In an apparent response to Austin, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russia has “the feeling that the West wants Ukraine to continue to fight and, as it seems to them, wear down, exhaust the Russian military and the war complex.” Russian military industrialist. This is an illusion.”

CLOCK | Russia attacks Ukrainian railways:

Russia bombs Ukrainian railways after US officials visit Zelensky by train

The Russian strikes hit critical rail infrastructure in central and western Ukraine, hours after top US officials traveled to Lviv by train to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and promised more economic and military aid. 2:17

Weapons supplied by Western countries “will be a legitimate target,” Lavrov said, adding that Russian forces were targeting weapons depots in western Ukraine.

Lavrov accused Ukrainian leaders of provoking Russia by asking NATO to get involved in the conflict. NATO forces are “adding fuel to the fire,” Lavrov said, according to a transcript on the Russian Foreign Ministry website.

Lavrov warns of nuclear risks

“The whole world is reciting incantations that in no case can we allow World War III,” he said in an interview on Russian television.

Lavrov said he would not want to see the risks of a nuclear confrontation “artificially inflated now, when the risks are quite significant.”

“The danger is serious,” he said. “It’s real. It shouldn’t be underestimated.”

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Twitter that Lavrov’s comments underscore Ukraine’s need for Western help: “Russia loses the last hope of scaring the world out of supporting Ukraine. talk about a ‘real’ danger of World War 3. This only means that Moscow feels defeat in the Ukraine.”

Smoke rises over an Azovstal Iron and Steel Works plant in the southern port city of Mariupol. (Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters)

When Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, its ostensible goal was to seize kyiv, the capital. But the Ukrainians, aided by Western weapons, forced President Vladimir Putin’s troops to withdraw.

Moscow now says its goal is to seize Donbas, the largely Russian-speaking industrial region in eastern Ukraine. On Monday, however, Russia focused its firepower elsewhere, with missiles and warplanes striking far behind the front lines to try to thwart Ukraine’s supply efforts.

Five railway stations in central and western Ukraine were attacked and one worker was killed, said Oleksandr Kamyshin, head of Ukraine’s state railways. The bombardment included a missile strike near Lviv, the western city near the Polish border that has been overrun by Ukrainians fleeing violence elsewhere.

Ukrainian authorities said at least five people were killed in Russian strikes in the central Vynnytsia region.

Ukrainian Iryna pets dogs as she begs for money to support a center for abandoned dogs next to a banner that reads “Heroes don’t die” in Ukrainian in kyiv on Monday. Iryna is a volunteer who helps in a shelter where dozens of abandoned dogs have been transferred. (Francisco Seco/The Associated Press)

Russia also destroyed an oil refinery and fuel depots in Kremenchuk in central Ukraine, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov said. In all, Russian warplanes destroyed 56 Ukrainian targets, he said.

Philip Breedlove, a retired US general who was NATO’s top commander from 2013 to 2016, said the attacks on fuel depots are aimed at depleting Ukraine’s key war resources. The attacks on rail targets were intended both to disrupt supply lines and to intimidate people trying to use the rail lines to flee the fighting, he said.

Phillips P. O’Brien, a professor of strategic studies at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, said the war is becoming a campaign of incremental gains and losses on the battlefield.

“Both sides are getting weaker every day,” he said.

CLOCK | The inhabitants of Odessa embrace their identities:

Shaped by war, Odessa residents adopt their Ukrainian identities

Russia’s invasion is forging a stronger sense of Ukrainian identity among residents of the Black Sea port city of Odessa, where most people are native Russian speakers. 6:26

In Transnistria, a breakaway region of Moldova along the Ukrainian border, explosions believed to have been caused by rocket-propelled grenades hit the territory’s Ministry of State Security. There was no immediate liability claim or injury reports. Transnistria is a strip of land with about 470,000 people. About 1,500 Russian soldiers are based there.

Moldova’s Foreign Ministry said that “the goal of today’s incident is to create pretexts to tense the security situation in the Transnistria region.” The United States has said that Russia could launch “false flag” attacks against its own side to create a pretext to invade other nations.

Last week, Rustam Minnekayev, a Russian military commander, said that the Kremlin wants full control of southern Ukraine to open the way to Transnistria.

An estimated 2,000 Ukrainian soldiers holed up in a steel plant in the strategic southern port city of Mariupol are tying up Russian forces, apparently preventing them from joining the offensive in other parts of the Donbas. Over the weekend, Russian forces launched fresh airstrikes on the Azovstal plant to try to dislodge the holdouts.

Some 1,000 civilians were also said to be sheltering in the steelworks.

Another mass grave identified near Mariupol

The Mariupol city council and mayor said a new mass grave had been identified about 10 kilometers north of the city. Mayor Vadym Boychenko said authorities were trying to estimate the number of victims. It was at least the third new mass grave discovered in Russian-controlled areas near Mariupol in the past week.

Mariupol has been destroyed by shelling and fierce street fighting in the last two months. Russia’s capture of the city would deprive Ukraine of a vital port and give Moscow a land corridor to the Crimean peninsula, which Ukraine seized in 2014.

In his late-night video address, Zelensky said Ukraine was maintaining its resistance to “make the occupiers’ stay on our land even more intolerable” while Russia exhausts its resources.

Britain said it believes 15,000 Russian soldiers have been killed in Ukraine since the Russian invasion began. Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said 25 percent of Russian combat units sent to Ukraine “have ceased to be effective in combat.”

Ukrainian authorities have said that between 2,500 and 3,000 Ukrainian soldiers had been killed by mid-April.

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