The Russian Defense Ministry linked the explosions in Luhansk to Storm Shadow cruise missiles, recently supplied to Ukraine by Britain, which have a range of 155 miles, as well as infrared targeting and stealth capabilities.
Russia reported the use of Storm Shadows as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky arrived in London on Monday, making the latest stop on a tour of Western European countries.
Before Zelensky’s arrival, the British government issued a statement pledging to deliver “hundreds of air defense missiles,” “hundreds of new long-range attack drones” and other unmanned aerial systems to Ukraine over the next few years. month. Neither Britain nor Ukraine have confirmed the use of the Storm Shadow missiles, which the UK government said it provided on the condition that they be used only against targets inside Ukrainian territory.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov issued a vague but dangerous threat, telling reporters Monday that Britain’s plans to supply Ukraine with additional weapons will not influence the outcome of the war. Russia “but will lead to retaliatory actions by the Russian Federation.”
Storm Shadow’s range is just over three times that of the US-supplied HIMARS multiple-launch rocket system already in use by Ukraine, and it could change the course of the air war — put most of occupied Ukraine , including the illegal annexation of Crimea , at hand.
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A second explosion at a barber shop in Luhansk on Monday “seriously wounded” Igor Kornet, the interim interior minister of the Luhansk People’s Republic, the Moscow-backed separatist government, according to Russian state media. That explosion was described as a grenade attack, rather than a missile attack.
In total, at least a dozen people have been injured and one killed in attacks in the city since Friday, according to local accounts.
In response to the attacks, the separatist regime announced it would shut down mobile internet in the region and ordered local officials to work from home.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said on Monday that over the past day, Russia had intercepted a Storm Shadow missile, as well as 10 HIMARS missiles. It is not clear how many were removed in total.
The Luhansk attacks appear to signal a new chapter in the air war – in which Russia has until now enjoyed a heavy advantage due to its larger arsenal of missiles and fleet of fighter jets and bombers – while the new technology of the West is flowing to Ukraine.
On Friday, pro-Russian social media accounts shared images of another new missile they said Ukraine used in the Luhansk attack: the US-made ADM-160 Miniature Air-Launched Decoy, better known as MALD. These long-range cruise missiles are designed not to cause damage but to divert antiaircraft fire during an attack.
When the British government announced on Thursday that it would supply Storm Shadow missiles, it became the first Western country to supply long-range missiles to Ukraine, responding to a month-long plea from Zelensky.
In just a few days, the weapon achieved the kind of mythical, game-changing reputation previously enjoyed by the US-made Javelin antitank missiles and the HIMARS.
“We gave them the capability,” said a British official, speaking on condition of anonymity, when asked if the Storm Shadow was used in the Luhansk attack. “We expect them to deploy it, in line with the goal of repelling Russia’s illegal aggression on Ukraine’s sovereign territory.”
In recent days, there have been reports of other unexplained attacks in other eastern areas far from the front line, including near the occupied city of Mariupol on the Sea of Azov.
On Saturday, videos circulated on social media of multiple Russian aircraft crashing in Bryansk, a Russian region on Ukraine’s northern border. Russian state media later reported that an Mi-8 military helicopter had crashed, without giving an explanation. There were also reports of additional crashes, including another military helicopter and two Russian fighter jets – an Su-34 and an Su-35.
The Ukrainian air force declined to comment on Saturday’s strikes. That same day, Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Zelensky, tweeted that Russian planes are planning to launch an attack on the Chernihiv region and that their destruction is “justice” and “instant karma.”
On Sunday, Yuriy Ihnat, the spokesman for the Ukrainian air force, said that the Russian aircraft “had some problems” and that another helicopter crashed at the same time.
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So far, President Biden has rejected Zelensky’s request for America’s own long-range missile system — known as ATACMS, shorthand for Army Tactical Missile System. The ATACMS has a longer range than the Storm Shadow, capable of hitting targets up to 185 miles away.
The United States, along with other Western partners, has expressed concern about providing Ukraine with longer-range weapons, cautioning that Kyiv would use the munitions to launch attacks inside Russia and escalate of an alarming conflict with its nuclear-armed neighbor.
Other documents leaked on Discord and obtained by The Washington Post showed that Zelensky privately looked for ways to strike Russia within its own borders.
On May 3, Russia accused Ukraine of a drone attack intended to kill President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin. Ukrainian officials have denied involvement and said Moscow was trying to create a justification for the retaliatory strikes.
Late Saturday and again early Sunday, air raid sirens sounded in each of Ukraine’s regions as Russia attacked. The Ukrainian air force said 25 drones and three cruise missiles were intercepted overnight, with each attempting to hit Kyiv, the capital.
Ukraine’s air force has said no damage has been caused by airstrikes in Kyiv since April 28, when Russia began a near-relentless barrage on the capital.
Again, most of the change appears to be thanks to new technology. At the start of the war, Ukraine initially relied on Soviet- and Russian-made air defense systems — including the long-range S-300 and medium-range Buk systems.
In a US document leaked on Discord, the Defense Department’s Joint Staff predicted that Ukraine’s “ability to provide medium range air defense to protect [front lines] will be completely reduced by May 23,” in part because of the difficulty in obtaining more Russian-made ammunition needed for those systems.
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But in recent months, Ukraine has increasingly used Western systems that help plug the gaps. Last week, Ukraine said it used the US-made Patriot air defense system to shoot down a feared Russian hypersonic missile over Kyiv.
However, many strikes penetrate the defenses.
On Saturday night, cruise missiles hit the Ukrainian cities of Kharkiv, in the northeast, and Ternopil, in the west, where there were massive explosions. Local authorities in Ternopil said one commercial facility was hit and only two injuries were reported. Russian state media reported that the explosions were the result of a successful strike at an ammunition factory.
A year of Russia’s war with Ukraine
Photos of Ukraine: Every Ukrainian’s life has changed since Russia launched its massive invasion a year ago — in ways big and small. They learned to survive and support each other under extreme circumstances, in bomb shelters and hospitals, destroyed apartment complexes and damaged markets. Scroll through photos of Ukrainians reflecting on a year of loss, resilience and fear.
Fight attrition: Over the past year, the war has transformed from a multi-front invasion that includes Kyiv in the north to a conflict of attrition that is largely concentrated in the expanse of territory in the east and south. Follow the 600-mile front line between Ukrainian and Russian forces and see where the battle is focused.
A year of living apart: Russia’s invasion, coupled with Ukraine’s martial law that prevents men of fighting age from leaving the country, has forced agonizing decisions for millions of Ukrainian families about how to balance safety, duty and love, whose former interrelated life is no longer recognized. Here’s what a train station full of goodbyes looked like last year.
Deepening the global divide: President Biden has touted the reinvigorated Western alliance formed during the war as a “global coalition,” but a closer look suggests the world is far from united on the issues raised by the war in Ukraine. There is plenty of evidence that efforts to isolate Putin have failed and that sanctions have not deterred Russia, thanks to its oil and gas exports.