Ukraine struck a railway depot and knocked out power in the Russian-occupied city of Melitopol, deep behind the front line, on Wednesday amid growing talk from Kyiv of a counterassault against Russian forces worn out by a failed winter offensive.
Unverified images on the internet showed explosions lighting up the night sky with streaks of contrails in Melitopol, base of the occupation administration in Zaporizhzhia, one of five Ukrainian provinces Russia claims to have annexed.
There was no public information about the weapons Ukraine could have used for the strike. The city is at the far edge of the range of Ukraine’s HIMARS rockets but well within the range of newer weapons it is said to be deploying, including air-launched JDAM bombs and ground-launched GLSDB munitions promised by the United States. Russia said it shot down a GLSDB on Tuesday, the first time it has reported doing so.
Ukraine’s exiled mayor of the city confirmed that there were explosions there. Russia’s state TASS news agency, citing Moscow-installed officials, said a railway depot was destroyed and power knocked out to the city and nearby villages. according to the Guardian.
In addition, Radio Free Europe reports that Rafael Grossi, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN’s nuclear watchdog, visited the Russian-held Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant on March 29, Ukraine’s state-owned nuclear company Enerhoatom reported. The visit was Grossi’s second to Europe’s largest nuclear power plant since the start of its occupation by Russian troops, Enerhoatom’s press service said. The visit was part of efforts to avert the risk of an accident at the nuclear plant. On March 27, Grossi met with President Volodymyr Zelenskiy during a working trip to the Zaporizhzhya region.
Away from the battlefield, Russian ally Belarus said it had decided to host Russian tactical nuclear weapons as a response to Western sanctions and what it said was a military build-up by NATO member states near its borders. Moscow has repeatedly pointed to the threat that the war could turn nuclear. Western government largely dismiss that as an attempt to intimidate them into rolling back military aid for Kyiv. US President Joe Biden called the prospect that Russia would place nuclear weapons in Belarus “worrisome” but the United States has said it has not seen any indications that Russia was closer to using tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine.