Two explosions rocked Trans-Dniester, a separatist region in Moldova, for the second consecutive day. They knocked out two radio antennas near the Ukrainian border, further increasing fears about a wider conflict in Europe. Ukraine largely blamed Russia for the attack, although no one claimed responsibility.
According to Ukrainian authorities, Russian missile fire also destroyed a strategic railroad bridge that connects southern Ukraine's Odesa port area with neighboring Romania. This route is a NATO member.
Russia's approach appears to have changed significantly since the attack on the bridge and other strikes at key railway stations that took place a day earlier. Moscow has so far avoided strategic bridges in an attempt to seize Ukraine. It seems that it is now trying to stop Ukraine from moving troops and supplies.
Since a Russian military officer stated last week that Trans-Dniester is the Kremlin’s goal, the southern Ukraine and Moldova are on edge.
After two months of the terrible war, Western weapons have helped Ukraine stop Russia's invasion. But, the country's leaders claim they need more support.
U.S. Defense secretary Lloyd Austin stated that more assistance is possible as he hosted a meeting with officials from 40 countries at Ramstein (Germany) to pledge additional weapons.
Austin stated in his opening remarks that "this gathering reflects the galvanized universe." He said that officials should leave the meeting with a clear and common understanding of Ukraine's security needs in the near future. "We're going to continue moving heaven and Earth so that they can be met."
After Russia's unexpectedly strong resistance to Ukraine's attempts to seize Kiev's capital in the war began, Moscow has now declared its intention to capture the Donbas, an industrial area in eastern Ukraine that is dominated by Russian-speaking people.
Residents in Toretsk, a small town, are fighting to survive. They collect rainwater to wash up and hope for an end of the fighting.
"It's bad. It's very bad. Hopeless," said Andriy Cheromushkin. "You feel so helpless that it's hard to know what you should or shouldn't do. You need money to do anything.
The British Defense Ministry's latest assessment of fighting revealed that Russia had advanced and been fighting heavily in the Donbas. One town, Kreminna was reported to have fallen after days of fighting street-by-street.
Authorities in Mariupol, a devastated southern port city, reported that Russian forces attacked the Azovstal steel factory with 35 airstrikes within the last 24 hours. This plant is believed to be the last stronghold for Ukrainian fighters in the area. There were approximately 1,000 civilians sheltering there, along with around 2,000 Ukrainian defenders.
According to Petro Andryushchenko (an adviser to Mariupol’s mayor), "Russia has intensified its strikes over the last 24 hours and is using heavy bomber bombs." Once the rubble has been cleared, we will see how many are still injured.
He also accused Russian forces, among other things, of bombarding a route it offered as an escape route from the steel mill.
Local officials confirmed that at least nine people died and many more were injured in Russian attacks against towns and cities in eastern, southern and southern Ukraine. Pavlo Kyrylenko (the governor of Donetsk in the Donbas) stated on Telegram that Russian forces "continued to deliberately fire at civilians, and to destroy crucial infrastructure."
Ukraine claimed that Russian forces also shelled Kharkiv. This second-largest country is located in the northeast of the Donbas but is key to Russia’s apparent attempt to surround Ukrainian troops in the Donbas.
Ukrainian forces reacted in the Kherson region of the south to the attack by the Russians, but Oleksandr Kamyshin (head of the state-run Ukrainian railway) said that there were no injuries from the Russian attack on the Odesa bridge.
Although it was unclear who caused the explosions in Trans-Dniester there were fears that Russia was creating trouble to justify its intervention. Trans-Dniester is home to approximately 1,500 Russian troops. It's a narrow, long strip of land that houses about 470,000 people, and lies along the Ukrainian border.
The potentially pivotal battle to the east is underway and the U.S. and its NATO allies have to scramble to deliver artillery, heavy weaponryin the nick of time.
Christine Lambrecht, German Defense Minister, stated that her government will supply Gepard self propelled armored anti aircraft guns to Ukraine. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is under increasing pressure to send heavy weapons like tanks and other armored vehicles.
Austin pointed out that the U.S. has sent military aid to Ukraine with more than 30 allies, partners and more than $5 billion in equipment.
According to the U.S. defense secretary, the war has weakened Russia's military and added, "We want to make sure that they don’t have the same ability to bully their neighbours that we saw at beginning of this conflict."
Nikolai Patrushev (a senior Kremlin official) warned that the West's policies and the Kyiv regime would only lead to the disintegration of Ukraine into many states.
Sergey Lavrov, Russian Foreign Minister, warned that if Western weapons continue to flow, then the talks to end the fighting won't produce any results.
Lavrov had accused NATO of "pouring fuel on the fire" by its support for Ukraine a day earlier. Lavrov also warned against starting World War III, and stated that the threat of nuclear conflict "shouldn't be underestimated."
In an interview with CNN, John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesperson, stated that a nuclear war can't be won and shouldn't be fought. "This kind of rhetoric is not needed in the current situation. It is time for Mr. Putin to end this war.
Diplomatic efforts to stop the fighting continued. Antonio Guterres, U.N. Secretary General, met with Vladimir Putin, Russian President. He condemned Russia's actions in Ukraine as a violation of its territorial integrity.
Guterres asked Russia to allow evacuation of civilians held in the Mariupol steel plant. Putin stated that Ukrainian troops used civilians at the steel plant in Mariupol as shields, and refused to allow them to leave.