Russia used ballistic weapons to destroy an underground arms depot in western Ukraine
Russian President Vladimir Putin is likely to be using nuclear-capable hypersonic missiles against Ukrainian targets to detract from his army’s lack of progress almost a month into the war, Britain has said.
Moscow this week claimed its first use of the hypersonic Kinzhal, or Dagger, a domestically made weapon which it says has a range of more than 2,000 kilometres. The weapons – which are launched from the air, most likely by a MiG-31 warplane – were used to destroy a large underground arms depot in western Ukraine.
Britain’s Ministry of Defence said Mr Putin had resorted to unprecedented tactics in a desperate bid to draw attention from his dismal operation.
On Tuesday, day 27 of the invasion, Russian troops were continuing their battle to capture Kyiv. Gen Lord Richard Dannatt, former head of the British armed forces, said invading troops fighting to take the capital were “hunkering down” and on the defensive while coming up against heavy resistance from Ukrainian soldiers and volunteers.
In an intelligence update on Monday evening, the MoD said Russia’s claims of using hypersonic missiles were “highly likely intended to detract from a lack of progress in Russia’s ground campaign”.
“Deployment of Kinzhal is highly unlikely to materially affect the outcome of Russia’s campaign in Ukraine,” the report said.
In a further update issued on Tuesday morning, the MoD said Russian forces had endured “yet another day of limited progress with most forces largely stalled in place”.
The latest figures from the United Nations show at least 10 million Ukrainians have been internally displaced as a result of the war, while 3.48 million have fled the country.
Gen Lord Dannatt said the Russians’ push from Belarus towards Kyiv has “very much stalled” and cited reports about invading troops “hunkering down” for what is expected to be a long battle for the capital. Given the fierce opposition from Ukrainian forces and volunteers, he forecast the war would drag on for “quite some time”.
As the battle rages for the southern port city of Mariupol, Gen Lord Dannatt said a Russian capture would open up a vital land border connecting Crimea to the Donbas and Russian territory.
“That’s absolutely critical because if that land link is established and Ukrainian forces have to finally give up Mariupol, it means the Russians will be able to redeploy quite a number of forces, possibly perhaps to threaten Odesa,” he told Sky News.
“Bear in mind that Russia has quite a large amphibious force at sea threatening Odesa, so we could see an attack being made on that last port that gives Ukraine its last opportunity to get its exports out into the world shipping lanes.
“So what’s happening in the south is really, really important in the present moment.”
He warned of another genocide in Europe and said “Mariupol looks increasing like Srebrenica”, referring to the killing of more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys in 1995 during the Balkans war.
The former military leader said Mr Putin had attacked his neighbouring nation with the intention of morphing Ukraine into Russia but questioned why Moscow would want to control a country it is now destroying.
“They’re just taking over a complete bomb site and destroyed cities,” he said.
US President Joe Biden on Monday said President Putin may be preparing to use chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine.
“Putin’s back is against the wall. He wasn’t anticipating the extent or the strength of our unity. And the more his back is against the wall, the greater the severity of the tactics he may employ,” Mr Biden told American business leaders in Washington DC.
“We’ve seen it before. He’s run a lot of false-flag operations. Whenever he starts talking about something he thinks Nato, Ukraine or the United States is about to do, it means he’s getting ready to do it.
“Now, he’s talking about new false flags he’s setting up … he’s asserting that we, in America, have biological as well as chemical weapons in Europe – simply not true.
“They’re also suggesting that Ukraine has biological and chemical weapons in Ukraine. That’s a clear sign he is considering using both of those. He’s already used chemical weapons in the past and we should be careful of what’s about to come. He knows there’ll be severe consequences because of the united Nato front, but the point is – it’s real.”