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‘Playing with fire’: Chilling new warning

Russia’s top diplomat warned on Sunday that Western nations were “playing with fire” by agreeing to provide Ukraine with US-made F-16 fighter jets, calling it “an unacceptable escalation” of the conflict.

“It’s playing with fire, without a doubt,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in an excerpt from a Russian TV interview posted on social media, denouncing an attempt to “weaken Russia” by “Washington, London and their satellites in the EU”.

The recent show of support for Ukraine from the West has lit a flame under Moscow, with fresh bombings levelled on civilians to begin the week.

On Monday, a series of explosions rang out in Kyiv, as authorities told residents to seek shelter after another night of Russian strikes on the Ukrainian capital.

Authorities in the western city of Khmelnytsky said Russian forces also attacked a military facility overnight and damaged five aircraft.

AFP journalists on Monday heard at least 10 explosions from around 11:10am local time (0810 GMT) in Kyiv, and the blasts took place soon after the air raid warning sounded.

Mayor Vitali Klitschko reported explosions “in the central districts” of the Ukrainian capital, a rare occurrence in daytime, and told residents to “stay in shelters”.

“The attack on Kyiv continues,” he added minutes after.

Authorities reported rocket fragments falling in three city districts. Klitschko said emergency services were working to extinguish rocket debris burning on the road in Kyiv’s northern Obolonskiy district.

The mayor said fragments of rockets had fallen in the city’s northwestern Podilskiy district, injuring one and setting fire to a building.

The Kyiv city administration said air defences were at work over the capital. Kyiv, which had been relatively spared from attacks since the beginning of the year, has faced nearly nightly aerial raids this month.

The May attacks, however, have usually happened during the night. Authorities said earlier Monday that Kyiv repelled another large volley of overnight air strikes, with no casualties.

Valery Zaluzhny, commander-in-chief of Ukraine’s armed forces, said on social media that a total of “up to 40 missiles” and “around 35 drones” had been launched, of which 37 and 29 were downed.

The latest figures showed the percentage of downed missiles and drones appeared to be decreasing.

The latest barrages hit the pro-Western country as the Ukrainian capital was recovering from an overnight Saturday drone attack, the biggest since Russia’s invasion began in February last year.

In the western city of Khmelnytsky, regional authorities said Russian troops attacked a military facility overnight.

In a rare admission of the damage, they said “five aircraft have been put out of action.” Work was underway to localise fires at fuel and lubricant warehouses and repair a runway, the statement said.

Kyiv has been preparing to launch an offensive although its timing and focus have been the subject of months of speculation. Ukrainian authorities have said almost nothing except that they need more weapons from Kyiv’s backers.

Deputy Defence Minister Ganna Malyar said Monday that in the frontline hotspot of Bakhmut “the intensity of the enemy’s offensive has significantly decreased” as Russian mercenary group Wagner was handing over its positions to Moscow’s regular troops.

“Our troops are making this process much more difficult for the enemy,” she said.

“At the same time, the intensity of enemy artillery shelling has not decreased.”

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