Russia hits railways to foil Ukraine weapons shipments

Moscow complains western powers are 'stuffing Ukraine with weapons' as war enters 11th week

Workers inspect a damaged electric substation in the western city of Lviv, Ukraine. AFP

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Ukraine said it had received $12 billion in military and financial aid since Russia invaded the country and was promised $6.5bn more at a donor conference on Thursday - but both sides said Moscow was firing missiles at Ukrainian railways in an attempt to thwart such deliveries.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said Ukraine needed 12,000 tonnes of humanitarian aid every day, but that only 3,000 tons were getting through as Russia takes aim at supply lines. Countries including France, Finland, the Czech Republic and Croatia pledged millions at the conference hosted by Poland and Sweden to support humanitarian and military efforts.

Ukraine said the city of Dnipro had been hit by a missile aimed at railway infrastructure, a day after six electric substations serving rail lines were damaged in Russian strikes.

Russia said it attacked the railways because western arms and ammunition were being sent to Ukrainian forces by train. Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu complained that the West was “stuffing Ukraine with weapons.”

As the war entered its 11th week, airline pilots were warned by the European Union's aviation regulator of the heightened risks to aircraft because of the war in Ukraine, due to a string of issues such as unfamiliar detours, sanctions affecting maintenance and the potential for troops to misidentify passenger jets as warplanes.

It came amid attacks on supply routes which have stretched far beyond the eastern Donbas battleground where Russia’s ground offensive is concentrated, keeping other parts of Ukraine in the line of fire.

Ukraine’s allies have been scaling up their military support in recent weeks in response to pleas from Kyiv, with France, Britain, Germany and the US all offering advanced equipment such as tanks and lorry-mounted cannons.

Ukraine, which accused Moscow of hampering evacuation efforts by damaging railway infrastructure, said it had drawn up alternative supply routes to protect its troops and other passengers from being hit by Russia’s rockets.

“Russia is trying to hinder the support of the whole free world,” the Ukrainian government’s strategic communications command said.

Ukraine said last week it had carried out a similar attack itself by blowing up a bridge near occupied Melitopol, cutting off one of two major railway lines from the annexed Crimean peninsula to the mainland.

Britain’s Defence Ministry said in a regular intelligence update that Russian strikes were aimed both at hampering supply efforts and weakening Ukraine’s resolve to fight the two-month invasion.

Non-military targets such as schools, hospitals and homes have continued to be hit, indicating willingness to strike civilian infrastructure to lower morale, the ministry said.

On the ground, Ukraine said Russia was seeking full control of the eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions where Moscow-friendly separatists have waged a battle with government forces since 2014.

It said Russia had shelled the city of Kharkiv and fired mortar and artillery at the city of Izium, regarded as a focal point of its offensive in the Donbas.

In Mariupol, the southern port nearly occupied by Russia after weeks of heavy fighting, Ukraine said another 344 people had been rescued and taken to the city of Zaporizhzhia.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said a ceasefire needed to hold for more people to be rescued from shelters under the Azovstal steelworks in the city. Russia is sceptical, and claims foreign fighters are hiding there.

Updated: May 05, 2022, 2:46 PM