Ukraine War Expands Beyond Established Battlefields

Ukrainian strikes on Russian ships in the Black Sea. Waves of drones fired at Moscow. A Russian attack on a Ukrainian port on the Danube River near the Romanian border.

Nearly a year and a half into Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, both sides appear increasingly ready to open a new dimension in the war, taking violence to people and to places that have largely been spared until now.

The attacks have come as Ukraine presses on with a counteroffensive in the south and east that it launched around two months ago, with no sign yet that Russian lines have been decisively breached.

While Ukraine has been generally coy when it comes to attacks within Russia, President Volodymyr Zelensky and other top officials have recently signaled that strikes over the border and on territory that Russia occupies in Ukraine are part of a plan — now stated explicitly by officials — to force ordinary Russians to face up to the Kremlin’s war.

On Sunday, Russian air defenses shot down a hostile drone that had been approaching Moscow, according to a brief statement on the Telegram messaging app posted by the city’s mayor, Sergei S. Sobyanin. The claim has not been independently verified, and Ukrainian officials did not immediately comment. At the same time, the Vnukovo airport, which serves Moscow, temporarily suspended flights for “security reasons,” according to a Telegram post from the Russian state news agency Tass.

The Russian authorities gave no further details about the drone on Sunday. But this past week, they accused Ukraine of twice launching drone strikes that damaged a high-rise in Moscow housing government ministries. Those appeared to be part of an increasingly brazen pattern of attacks on Russian territory including one, in May, in which a drone struck the Kremlin.

Russia has taken steps to intensify attacks on different areas of Ukraine. For a year, the port city of Odesa, crucial before the war for exports of Ukrainian grain, was largely spared Russian strikes. But since Moscow terminated a wartime deal three weeks ago that had allowed Ukraine to continue to ship its grain and other foodstuffs across the Black Sea, Russian forces have struck the port repeatedly, damaging facilities and grain stocks.

The goal has been to thwart any possible attempt by Ukraine to export its produce unilaterally across waters dominated by the Russian Navy.

In addition, Russian missiles have struck Ukraine’s ports on the Danube River in recent days. The ports, while smaller than the one at Odesa, provide a crucial alternative export route for millions of tons of grain. Again, the aim appeared to be to complicate the transport of crops important both for Ukraine’s economy and for global markets.

On Sunday, Ukraine’s air force said on Telegram that the country’s air defenses shot down 30 cruise missiles and 27 drones overnight.

Russia launched an aerial attack on Khmelnytskyi, in central Ukraine, causing damage to buildings but no casualties, according to Serhiy Tyurin, deputy head of the regional military administration there. The region, which is west of the Dnipro River, had largely escaped unscathed up to now.

Igor Konashenkov, spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry, said that Russia had used precision weapons to strike Ukrainian military air bases near the city of Starokostiantyniv, in the western Khmelnytskyi region, and also in Dubno, in the northwestern Rivne region. It was not possible immediately to verify the claims independently.

Despite the high toll of the war on both country’s militaries and also on Ukrainian civilians — more than 9,000 of whom have been killed, according to United Nations data — talks to end the fighting have yet to yield any significant progress.

This is in part because both sides are seeking to make territorial gains on the battlefield. Mr. Zelensky has also proposed a peace formula that includes a Russian cessation of hostilities and Moscow’s withdrawal from the entirety of Ukrainian territory, including Crimea, demands the Kremlin flatly rejects.

As part of a diplomatic push, however, representatives from Ukraine and from about 40 other countries — with the notable exception of Russia — gathered in Saudi Arabia over the weekend in an effort to build international consensus for a peace settlement.

In addition to the United States and European countries, notable attendees included Brazil, China, India and South Africa, allies of Russia known collectively as BRICS, as well as some of the oil-rich Gulf nations that have tried to maintain good relations with both Ukraine and Russia throughout the war. Mr. Zelensky’s office said Sunday that the meeting had been a “step toward the practical implementation of peace initiatives proposed by Ukraine.”

China, which has cast itself as neutral, was open to the idea of holding further discussions, according to a European Union official. Russia will discuss the results of the talks with other BRICS nations that participated in the meeting, Sergei A. Ryabkov, the Russian deputy foreign minister, told Tass on Sunday.

As the talks took place, a Russian aerial guided bomb struck the Kupiansk district in the northeastern region of Kharkiv late on Saturday and sparked a fire, killing at least 2 people, according to Oleg Sinegubov, the head of the regional administration.

A third person — a 58-year-old woman — was killed on Sunday after further Russian shelling in Kupiansk, Mr. Sinegubov said on Telegram.

There was no independent confirmation of the attacks, but the Kharkiv region is among the worst hit by Russian strikes behind the front lines in the war. Ukrainian forces retook the city of Kupiansk last September as part of a rapid counteroffensive, but Russian missile strikes since then have made any resumption of normal life impossible.

In June, Ukraine launched a new counteroffensive, for which its forces had prepared for months, aiming to cut off Russian forces in southern Ukraine from land they control in the east. Both sides have sustained significant casualties as Ukraine battles to penetrate Russian defenses, and two women in the eastern region of Donetsk were killed by Ukrainian shelling on Saturday, the Russian state news agency RIA Novosti said, citing the region’s Russian-installed leader Denis Pushilin. The report could not be independently verified.

An official appointed by Moscow in Crimea, Vladimir Rogov, said Sunday that Ukraine had launched strikes against the Chonhar Bridge, which connects Crimea to the Kherson region of southern Ukraine. Crimea was illegally annexed by Russia in 2014. Mr. Rogov did not say when the attack took place and said that the extent of the damage was unknown. The claim could not be independently verified, and Ukrainian officials did not immediately comment.

Ukraine has targeted the bridge, which lies behind the frontline, in recent weeks as part of a broader pattern of attacks on occupied Crimea.

Hours earlier, in his nightly address, Mr. Zelensky again pleaded for a united world order against Russia.

“The main thing is that all of us in Ukraine and everyone in the world, who value a normal life, work at 100 percent without any stop for the sake of victory,” Mr. Zelensky said. “Our unity, our ability to build strength, and our ability to bring war back to where it came from. It is the most tangible for Russia.”

Matina Stevis-Gridneff contributed reporting.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *