March 9 (Reuters) – Russia said on Thursday that its forces had carried out a “massive retaliatory strike” on Ukrainian infrastructure after what it called a terrorist attack in Russia’s Bryansk region, which borders Ukraine, last week.
Ukraine said at least six civilians were killed in the first big volley of Russian missile strikes since mid-February,
The Russian defence ministry said in a statement that it hit Ukrainian defence companies and other “military infrastructure” with a range of weapons including Kinzhal hypersonic missiles.
It said it had destroyed targets including drone bases and sites producing ammunition, and disrupted the transport of foreign weapon supplies across Ukraine by rail. It was not possible to independently verify the claims.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said infrastructure and residential buildings in 10 regions had been hit.”The occupiers can only terrorise civilians,” he said in a statement.
The Russian ministry said the strikes were in response to what Moscow called a terrorist attack in Bryansk region last week, when members of a group called the Russian Volunteer Corps staged an incursion from Ukraine.
Russia said two civilians were killed in the incident, which Ukraine accused Moscow of staging as a false “provocation”.
In the course of its year-old invasion, Russia has launched mass “retaliatory” strikes before after incidents it blamed on Ukraine, including an explosion that caused serious damage last October to a bridge between Russia and the Moscow-annexed Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea.
ARMS BUYING PUSH
Russia was throwing more troops into the battle, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said before a meeting of European Union defence ministers in Stockholm.
“They have suffered big losses, but at the same time we cannot rule out that Bakhmut may eventually fall in the coming days,” Stoltenberg said.
EU defence ministers agreed to speed up the supply of artillery rounds and buy more shells to help Ukraine’s military.
Ukraine is expected to launch a counteroffensive when the weather improves and it receives more Western military aid, including tanks.
Russia has said it has annexed nearly 20% of Ukraine’s territory and says taking Bakhmut would be a step towards seizing the whole of the industrial Donbas region on its border.
Western analysts say Bakhmut has little strategic value, although its capture would be a boost to Russian President Vladimir Putin and his military after a series of setbacks in what they call their “special military operation” to eliminate o threats to its security from Ukraine’s ties to the West.