At a moment the Kremlin is warning it could target cities in the West, expanding the war outside of Ukraine, if US-supplied missiles attack Russian territory, the Ukrainian capital of Kiev was pounded by rockets for the first time in a month on Sunday.
A Russian military statement said it had targeted an arms depot housing foreign-supplied weapons with a volley of five missiles. On the same day, President Vladimir Putin vowed to "strike harder" if Washington transfers long-range missiles to the Ukrainian government. "We will strike at those targets which we have not yet been hitting," he said in a state TV interview.
According to Fox News, "Footage shows several large explosions in Kyiv, but it is unclear what was struck. The Russian Defense Ministry released a statement Sunday morning claiming the strike had hit a former car-repair facility being used to house T-72 tanks and other armored vehicles supplied by Ukrainian allies, NEXTA reported."
The biggest development following White House approval of $700 million more in military aid for Ukraine has been the announced transfer of Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS). It's expected that training for Ukrainian personnel to operate these longer range missile systems will take at least three weeks.
The Biden administration said that while longer range rockets have been approved, the types of systems being transferred are still not of range to strike into Russian territory, which the Kremlin earlier called a "rational" decision.
This prompted a weekend statement from Putin as follows:
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Sunday that the new inclusion of Western long-range missile systems in Ukraine's defenses would lead Moscow to hit "objects that we haven't yet struck."
The rare attack on Kiev appears to be a message and warning against supplying more, or especially longer range systems. Russia has been stepping up its attacks on alleged weapons transfers, including against Ukraine's rail infrastructure, in the past weeks.
The AP writes Sunday that "Russian forces pounded railway facilities and other infrastructure early Sunday in Kyiv, which had previously seen weeks of eerie calm." And further: "Ukraine’s nuclear plant operator, Energoatom, said one cruise missile buzzed the Pivdennoukrainsk nuclear plant, about 350 kilometers (220 miles) to the south, on its way to the capital — citing the dangers of such a near miss."
Putin further charged in comments to Rossiya-1 TV channel on Sunday that the West is seeking to prolong the conflict with its ramped up arms supplies: "In my view, all this fuss over additional deliveries of armaments generally pursues the sole objective of stretching out the armed conflict as long as possible," he said. He suggested further that new rocket systems for Kiev are due to significant Ukrainian losses:
"What we hear today and what we understand, these are rockets that fly to a distance of 45-70 km depending on the rocket type. The same is true about Grad, Uragan and Smerch rocket systems that I spoke about. They also have the range of 40-70 km and there is nothing new about that," the head of state explained.
"This is why, these deliveries by the United States and some other countries can only be related to the intention to help Kiev make up for the losses of its combat hardware," Putin said.
Kyiv’s left bank in smoke after Russia hits the capital with five missiles. pic.twitter.com/tgsIWhoi9I— Oleksiy Sorokin (@mrsorokaa) June 5, 2022
As for the latest strikes on Kiev, Ukraine's government has yet to comment on whether or not tanks were destroyed in the attack, as is being purported by Moscow. But based on Putin's words, it's likely there will be more such attacks to come.