Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky rebuffed Shoigu’s comments, saying in his nightly address that it is not his country but Russia that has been the aggressor. “If Russia calls and says that Ukraine is allegedly preparing something,” he said, “it means one thing: Russia has already prepared all this.”
Analysts have warned in recent days that Russia could blow up a Ukrainian hydroelectric dam at Nova Kakhovka, which would flood the Russian-occupied city of Kherson and surrounding territory. Ukraine and Russia have accused each other of targeting the dam, which Russia controls.
Kremlin-backed authorities are also stepping up efforts to relocate civilians from Kherson to Crimea and other occupied regions, in what Ukrainian officials have called an attempt by Moscow to “depopulate” areas of Ukraine that Kyiv is poised to recapture.
Here’s the latest on the war and its ripple effects across the globe.
- Pelosi said Sunday evening on Twitter that “Russia is waging an unprovoked, all-out assault on Ukraine” and confirmed that she will attend a summit of the Crimea Platform in Croatia on Tuesday. The summit is centered on Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February, and Pelosi said she looks forward to “discussing how we can further support the people of Ukraine as they defend Democracy.”
- In the call Sunday, Shoigu warned of uncontrolled escalation in the war against Ukraine, and he claimed that Ukraine was preparing a bomb designed to release radioactive material. He spoke to Wallace, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar and French Defense Minister Sébastien Lecornu on Sunday. Ukraine gave up its nuclear weapons in 1994 in return for a Russian guarantee that it would never attack Ukraine. Russia has aired similar claims, while providing no evidence, that Ukraine was planning attacks with dirty bombs or bioweapons.
- In a separate call, Shoigu talked to U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, two days after they had discussed the war in Ukraine. In a Pentagon news release, Austin said he “rejected any pretext for Russian escalation” and reaffirmed the importance of communication “amid Russia’s unlawful & unjustified war against Ukraine.” Later Sunday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Twitter that he had spoken with Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba and likewise rejected “Russia’s false allegations.”
- Zelensky used Shoigu’s escalation rumblings to call for more sanctions on Russia and support for Ukraine. Noting that his nation gave up its nuclear arsenal, he called on the world to “react in the toughest possible way” to punish Russia.
- Kuleba said Shoigu’s comments were “as absurd as they are dangerous.” “Firstly, Ukraine is a committed NPT [Non-Proliferation Treaty] member: we neither have any ‘dirty bombs’, nor plan to acquire any,” Kuleba tweeted. Dara Massicot, a senior policy analyst who studies the Kremlin’s military at Rand Corp., said on Twitter that Shoigu’s call “reads like Russian false flag groundwork.” “Troubling that it’s happening at the defense minister level,” she said.
- Two pilots died Sunday after a plane crashed into a residential building in Irkutsk, Siberia, Russia’s Emergencies Ministry said in a statement, adding that the crash occurred during an Su-30 warplane’s test flight. No residents were killed, regional governor Igor Kobzev said. He declared a state of emergency in the district, according to his Telegram channel. Sunday’s crash was the second incident of its kind in less than a week. On Monday, a Russian Su-34 crashed into a nine-story residential building in Yeysk, opposite the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol. At least 15 people were killed, according to Reuters.
- Occupying Russian authorities ordered residents to leave Kherson and urged them to take “documents, money, valuables and clothes” with them. Photos showed people boarding ferries and buses in Kherson, pets and luggage in tow. Officials are promising government payments of 100,000 rubles (about $1,600) and housing certificates to purchase an apartment for those who comply. Ukrainian officials called Russia’s order illegal.
- Russian authorities are reducing the volume of water in the reservoir behind the Nova Kakhovka dam to minimize damage if it is destroyed, a Russian-installed regional official said, per Russian news reports. Vladimir Leontyev also claimed that it was Ukraine, not Russia, that would seek to destroy it. Meanwhile, Zelensky has accused Russia of laying explosive mines at the dam in an effort to create “a large-scale disaster” in an area it is on the verge of losing control over. The Washington Post could not verify the claims. If the dam were damaged, it could flood the banks of the Dnieper River and compromise the water supply in Crimea.
- Russia is preparing to defend parts of Donbas it invaded from any Ukrainian counteroffensive, Britain’s Defense Ministry said. The ministry cited the head of the Wagner Group, a network of mercenaries working with Russian forces in Ukraine, who claimed to be building trenches and antitank defenses in Luhansk. This effort, the ministry said, suggests that “Russia is making a significant effort to prepare defences in depth behind the current front line, likely to deter any rapid Ukrainian counter offensives.”
- Russian forces struck Mykolaiv overnight with S-300 surface-to-air missiles, Mayor Oleksandr Senkevych said. Two residential buildings, a central heating line and a children’s playground were damaged, and one man was injured, though not severely, Senkevych added.
- The situation around Luhansk’s border remains “tense,” regional governor Serhiy Haidai said Sunday morning. During the previous day, Russian forces shelled border towns north of Luhansk city, while Ukrainian forces targeted Russian military equipment, Haidai said.
- The Ukrainian military claimed that Russia has moved its officers across the Dnieper River, leaving recruits behind on the western bank to fend off a possible Ukrainian counteroffensive. “Using such inexperienced forces to conduct a delaying action could prompt a Russian rout if Ukrainian forces choose to press the attack,” the Institute for the Study of War said.
- Ukraine’s Infrastructure Ministry accused Russia of “deliberately delaying” its grain initiative, the agency said in a Facebook post Sunday, reporting that ports were operating at 25 to 30 percent of their capacity. Ismini Palla, U.N. spokesperson for the Black Sea Grain Initiative, said in a statement to The Post that more than 150 vessels were waiting near Istanbul to move, and that the Joint Coordination Center — which has representatives from the United Nations, Russia, Ukraine and Turkey — is “discussing ways to address the backlog.”
- Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) criticized Kevin McCarthy, the House Republican leader, for his recent signals that the GOP probably will oppose additional aid to Ukraine if it wins the House majority. In a Sunday “Meet the Press” appearance, she said, “The notion that now Kevin McCarthy is going to make himself the leader of the pro-Putin wing of my party is just a stunning thing.” Cheney, whose criticism of the GOP contributed to her loss in the primary for her seat this year, also accused him of acting out of political self-interest.
- Russia’s defense minister told his French counterpart that the situation in Ukraine is “rapidly deteriorating,” according to the Russian Defense Ministry. Sergei Shoigu spoke on the phone with French Defense Minister Sebastien Lecornu on Sunday, the ministry said.
- India launched a rocket carrying 36 internet satellites into space as part of a global project led by space connectivity firm OneWeb, the company and Indian officials said. The project was disrupted when OneWeb cut ties with Russia’s space agency Roscosmos in March after refusing to comply with demands that the company guarantee the satellites wouldn’t be used for military purposes. All of OneWeb’s previous satellite launches used Russian rockets, the Associated Press reported.
- Iran criticized European calls for a U.N. probe into Iranian-made drones that the organization says are being used by Russia in Ukraine. Tehran on Saturday denounced the accusations, calling them “false and baseless,” as France, Germany and Britain urged an investigation. Britain last week imposed sanctions on Iran, while the Canadian government condemned Iran’s “active support of Russian atrocities.” Moscow denies that it is using Iranian-made Shahed-136 drones.
4. From our correspondents
In Ohio, J.D. Vance faces backlash in a Ukrainian community over his war stance: PARMA, Ohio — Irena Stolar has voted Republican for over half a century, from Richard M. Nixon to Donald Trump. But in the midterms, Stolar, 73, said she will cast her first vote for a Democrat. Originally from Ukraine, Stolar refuses to support J.D. Vance, the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in Ohio, who has said he wants to cut off aid to the war-torn country.
“Definitely not this year, with J.D. Vance saying that Ukraine doesn’t matter,” said Stolar, during a break from her shift as host at Olesia’s Taverne, a busy Ukrainian restaurant. She recalled being upset earlier this year, when Vance said on a podcast interview just before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, “I gotta be honest with you. I don’t really care what happens to Ukraine one way or another.”
Vance later recalibrated, saying Russian President Vladimir Putin “is the bad guy” and “we want the Ukrainians to be successful.” But for Stolar, Cara McGoogan reports, the damage was done. “If he said one thing, then backs down on it, you can’t trust someone like that,” she said. “I’d like our senators to continue supporting Ukraine, sending arms as much as they can.”
Stolar was one of 15 Republican voters or elected officials The Washington Post interviewed this month here in Parma, a city of 80,000 near Cleveland that has one of the largest Ukrainian American populations in the state. Many said they would not vote for Vance. In a tight contest, such sentiments could have far-reaching implications.
Alex Horton, Amy B Wang and Sammy Westfall contributed to this report.
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