LONDON, 1 OCT : Britain’s Defense Ministry said Saturday that the missile used in an attack on a humanitarian convoy in Ukraine “was likely a Russian long-range air defense missile being used in a ground attack role.”
The ministry said in an intelligence report posted on Twitter that the use of the “high-value resource” in the ground attack near Zaporizhzhia “has almost certainly been driven by overall munitions shortages, particularly longer-range precision missiles.”
The report said Friday’s attack on the day that Russian President Valdimir Putin proclaimed four Ukraine regions, including Zaporizhzhia, resulted in Russia “killing civilians it now claims as its own citizens.” At least 23 people were killed and 28 were injured in the strike on people who were looking to rescue their relatives from the occupied territory. At least three people were killed in another attack in Mykolaiv, with at least 12 injured.
“Bloodthirsty scum!” Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy wrote on Telegram. “You will definitely answer. For every lost Ukrainian life!”
On Friday, Putin proclaimed the annexation of the Ukrainian regions, even as Ukraine announced its military was achieving significant results in the country’s east.
“People living in Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson region and Zaporizhzhia region are becoming our compatriots forever,” Putin said during a ceremony Friday at the Kremlin.
Zelenskyy responded in his Friday evening video address by saying, “We have significant results in the east of our country … everyone has heard what is happening in Lyman.”
Even as Putin moved forward with annexation Friday, Ukrainian troops encircled hundreds of Russian troops at one of their main garrisons in northern Donetsk, near the city of Lyman.
The pro-Russian leader in Ukraine’s Donetsk province, Denis Pushilin, acknowledged his forces have lost full control of two villages north and east of Lyman, leaving the garrison “half-encircled.”
Defeat in the area could give Ukraine an opportunity to recapture swaths of territory that Russia now claims.
Zelenskyy announced earlier Friday that he is submitting an “accelerated” bid to join NATO.
The United States condemned Russia’s land grab. In a statement, President Joe Biden called the annexation fraudulent.
“Russia is violating international law, trampling on the United Nations Charter, and showing its contempt for peaceful nations everywhere,” Biden said.
The United Sates announced a slew of new sanctions Friday on hundreds of Russian companies and individuals.
In a statement, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States and its allies will impose “swift and severe costs targeting additional Russian government officials, their family members, Russian and Belarusian military officials, and defense procurement networks, including international suppliers supporting Russia’s military-industrial complex.”
At the United Nations Security Council, Russia vetoed a resolution Friday that would have condemned the Russian referendums as “illegal.”
Ten countries supported the resolution, including the United States and Albania, which introduced the measure. Four countries — China, Gabon, India and Brazil — abstained from voting.
Russia was the only vote against the resolution.
U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield said, “if Russia chooses to shield itself from accountability, then we will take further steps in the General Assembly to send an unmistakable message to Moscow that the world is still on the side of defending sovereignty and protecting territorial integrity.”
U.N. Director at the International Crisis Group, Richard Gowan, said Western diplomats knew Russia would veto the measure, but added the resolution was meant as a prelude to hold a General Assembly vote to condemn Russia’s actions.
He said the United States also “worked hard to make sure China abstained today,” a move he said was important to the United States “to show that China is not backing Russia.”
In remarks before the vote, Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said the resolution was “nothing more than a low-grade provocation” and said the residents of the regions where the referendums were held “have made an informed and free choice.”
British Ambassador Barbara Woodward said after the vote, “Council members have voted in different ways. But one thing is clear. Not a single other member of this Council recognizes Russia’s attempted illegal annexation of Ukrainian territory.”
On Thursday, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres strongly condemned the planned annexation, saying it is illegal and “must not be accepted.”
Russia says the result of referendums held in Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia – all of which are partially-occupied areas of Ukraine – showed that overwhelming majorities of people in those areas wanted to become part of Russia. The regions represent nearly one-fifth of Ukraine.
Ukraine says the referendums violated international law and were carried out under the coercion of occupation.
Before the annexation, the Kremlin advised that any aggression in the annexed regions would be considered an attack on Russia. Reporters asked Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov if Ukrainian attempts to retake annexed territories would be considered an attack on Russia.
“It would not be anything else,” Peskov said.
Putin has said he is willing to use nuclear weapons to defend Russia’s “territorial integrity.”
U.S. diplomats have been pressing Russia’s allies to convince President Putin to deescalate the situation.
In a response to a question from VOA about the specifics of the overtures, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said that any country that believes in the principles of the U.N. Charter “should be taking its measure of responsibility to communicate directly to the Kremlin that what it is doing is wrong and unjustified and must stop.”
He said the United States is asking countries around the world to both speak out publicly and convey messages privately to Russia.
In Washington, Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal spoke about proposed legislation he and Republican Senator Lindsay Graham are supporting in response to Russia’s latest moves.
“Senator Graham and I are introducing today legislation that would very simply immediately require cutting off economic and military aid to any country that recognizes Vladimir Putin’s illegal annexation of four regions of Ukraine,” he said Thursday.