Russia's Huge 'Retaliation' Strikes Include Hypersonic Missiles As NATO Sees Bakhmut Falling "In Coming Days"
As we detailed Wednesday, Russian forces have at this point taken full control of the eastern part of the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut as one of the bloodiest battles of the year-long war appears close to ending.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has since acknowledged that Bakhmut might fall to Russian forces in the "coming days" amid reports of rapid gains, which has been spearheaded by the Russian mercenary outfit Wagner Group. "We cannot rule out that Bakhmut may eventually fall in the coming days," Stoltenberg told a press briefing in Stockholm. But like with statements from Pentagon generals of late, he quickly tried to downplay the city's strategic importance.
Stoltenberg described that its capture by the Russian military won't "necessarily reflect any turning point of the war".
The Kyiv Independent recently interviewed soldiers on the frontline and issued a surprisingly blunt assessment (given it's obviously a news source on the Ukrainian side) that Ukrainian soldiers are by and large "unprepared, poorly-trained battalions being thrown into the front line meat grinder to survive as best they could with little support from armored vehicles, mortars, artillery, drones and tactical information."
Russia appears to be capitalizing on its momentum in the Donetsk region, by many accounts firing what's possibly the largest barrage of missiles so far this year. The Wall Street Journal reports Thursday:
Russia fired dozens of missiles at Kyiv and other regions across Ukraine overnight, striking civilian infrastructure and the country’s defense industry in one of the biggest barrages this year as its forces continued to claw more territory in the east.
Gen. Valeriy Zaluzhny, the commander-in-chief of Ukraine’s armed forces, said Russia had launched 81 missiles of different varieties from air, land and sea, in addition to eight Iranian-made attack drones. Four of the drones and 34 cruise missiles were intercepted, Gen. Zaluzhny said.
🇺🇦 The strikes that Russia unleashed across Ukraine on Thursday killed at least six people and knocked out power, including to the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station.— FRANCE 24 English (@France24_en) March 9, 2023
Hear more from @carysgarland ⤵️ pic.twitter.com/2kC22Y9cbH
And according to a note via Goldman Sachs commenting on the attack which spanned at least ten regions, "Russia launched a large wave of missile strikes across Ukraine although US intelligence chiefs said Russia likely to downgrade its ambitions in Ukraine to hanging onto seized territory."
In a Thursday statement, Russia's defense ministry called this new, expansive missile barrage a retaliation strike for cross-border sabotage and terror attacks earlier this month in the Bryansk border region.
Missiles struck as far West as the Lviv region, a rarity in the war, which reportedly resulted in the first civilians deaths there in a long time.
Russians returned to their old scheme – massive rocket attacks on 🇺🇦 at night, while people are sleeping. Explosions have been recorded in most regions – infrastructure facilities & residential areas have been hit. ZNPP is de-energized. 🇺🇦 is partially without water & electricity— Михайло Подоляк (@Podolyak_M) March 9, 2023
"In response to the March 2 terrorist actions organized by the Kyiv regime in the Bryansk region, Russia's Armed Forces dealt a massive retaliation strike," the Defense Ministry said. It also confirmed that it used one or more hypersonic missiles in the attack:
"High-precision long-range air, sea and land-based weapons, including the Kinzhal hypersonic missile system, hit key elements of Ukraine's military infrastructure, enterprises of the military-industrial complex as well as energy facilities that support them," the ministry said. "All assigned targets were hit."
"The enemy fired 81 missiles in an attempt to intimidate Ukrainians again, returning to their miserable tactics," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky later said. Ukraine's military claims it downed some half of the inbound missiles.
Military situation in Bakhmut on March 8, 2023:
And Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko indicated that as a result of Russian missiles 40% of the population in the capital remains without heating. The country's second largest city, Kharkiv, is now without power, water or heating.
The March 2nd incident for which Moscow says it's now retaliating involved alleged groups of well-armed Ukrainian nationalists crossing into Russia's southern Bryansk region and opening fire on villages, which killed two civilians, and reportedly injured a 10-year old boy. The Kremlin a week ago condemned it as a "terrorist attack", with President Putin describing of the infiltrators, "They opened fire on civilians,... they saw that there were children in the car."