The Ukraine military's stunning missile strike on a Russian naval base in Crimea last week was carried out at the request of and in close coordination with the U.S. and Britain, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova claimed Wednesday.
Ukraine has said the attack Friday killed or wounded more than 100 Russian military members and destroyed a headquarters building for the Black Sea Fleet. Russia has said little about the strike, but Zakharova said the goal was to distract attention from Ukraine's slow-moving counteroffensive and to "trigger panic" among the Russian public.
"There is not the slightest doubt that this attack was pre-planned with the use of Western intelligence means and NATO satellite equipment and spy planes," Zakharova told state media.
The Pentagon has said the $44.5 billion in U.S. military and security assistance to Ukraine since January 2021 has included satellite imagery services, surveillance and thermal imagery systems. And Ukrainian officials have suggested that British-French Storm Shadow missiles were used in the attack.
Ukraine had claimed that a top Russian admiral was killed in the assault. But Russia has released multiple videos of Viktor Sokolov that Moscow says were taken since the attack. Ukraine said it is trying to "clarify" its claim.
∎ A Russian man sentenced to two years in prison for criticizing the army online has been sent to a solitary cell for a fifth time, the global Russian media outlet Current Time reported. Anti-war drawings by Alexey Moskalev's 13-year-old daughter at school in April 2022 drew attention to Moskalev's social media post.
∎ German officials including Chancellor Olaf Scholz are reluctant to send Ukraine long-range Taurus missiles out of concern it could lead to a direct confrontation with Russia, the Wall Street Journal reported.
y's Federal Prosecutor Office said it is investigating a possible war crime in the Kyiv suburb of Hostomel, citing allegations that several civilians, including a German citizen, were shot and wounded by Russian forces in the early weeks of the war.
∎ Ukraine's soccer association said it won't take part in any international competitions that include Russian teams. European soccer officials on Tuesday dropped a ban on Russian teams for players 17 years old and younger, saying children should not be punished for actions of adults.
∎ Ukraine will mark a Day of Defenders on Sunday with a minute of silence for those who have died serving the country, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced: "A minute of honor. A minute of silence. And eternity of memory for our fallen defenders."
∎ Ukraine Security Service cyberspecialists detained two Kyiv residents accused of providing the Russian military with coordinates for a missile attack on Kyiv last week.
Latest attacks on Russia's Black Sea Fleet are most damaging yet
Regardless of whether Adm. Sokolov was killed or survived Friday's attack in the Crimean city of Sevastopol, Ukraine's latest assaults on Russia's Black Sea Fleet "have been more damaging and more coordinated than thus far in the war,'' the British Defense Ministry said in an update.
The ministry called the damage "severe but localized,'' and said it wouldn't keep the fleet from performing its main duties of launching cruise missiles and providing security patrols. But besides undermining the notion that Russia maintains full control of the waters around the area, the Ukrainian attacks may help prevent the Kremlin from scuttling the new shipping corridor Kyiv has established in the Black Sea to export its grain.
The ministry said it's likely Russia's "ability to continue wider regional security patrols and enforce its de facto blockade of Ukrainian ports will be diminished. It also likely has a degraded ability to defend its assets in port and to conduct routine maintenance.''
Trudeau apologizes for House speaker's 'embarrassing' mistake
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who had said the unwitting invitation of a former Nazi combatant to Zelenskyy's speech to Parliament on Friday was "deeply embarrassing,'' apologized for the incident Wednesday.
Trudeau nonetheless pinned the blame on Anthony Rota, then the speaker of the House of Commons, saying he was “solely responsible” for the blunder. Rota accepted full responsibility and resigned Tuesday.
Right after Zelenskyy's address, Rota lauded 98-year-old Yaroslav Hunka as a war hero who fought for the First Ukrainian Division, eliciting a standing ovation from lawmakers. Over the weekend, observers pointed out Hunka's division was also known as the Waffen-SS Galicia Division, or the SS 14th Waffen Division, a voluntary unit under the Nazis' command.
“All of us who were in the House on Friday regret deeply having stood and clapped, even though we did so unaware of the context,” Trudeau said Wednesday. “It was a horrendous violation of the memory of the millions of people who died in the Holocaust, and was deeply, deeply painful for Jewish people.”
Report: Drones pounding Ukraine laden with Western parts
Armed Iranian-built drones used by Russia in the latest attacks on Ukraine are filled with U.S. and European parts, according to a secret document viewed by Britain's The Guardian. The information was sent to Western officials last month as part of Kyiv's push to obtain long-range missiles to attack drone-production sites in Russia, Iran and Syria, the media outlet reported. The document says more than 600 raids in the previous three months were by drones featuring Western parts.
The document says production, once centered in Iran, has been moving to Russia as Iran tries to disassociate itself from the war. Iran, the Mail added, “cannot cope with Russian demand and the intensity of use in Ukraine." Iran has denied involvement in Russia's drones.
The Biden administration on Wednesday sanctioned entities and individuals involved in providing parts for Iranian drones, but none of them are from the U.S. or Europe. The sanctioned parties are based in Iran, China, Hong Kong, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.
Wagner troops return to Ukraine, fighting for Russia
Some former mercenaries from the Wagner Group who launched an ill-fated 36-hour insurrection in June have returned to battle with the Russian military against Ukrainian forces, Kyiv says. Illia Yevlash, spokesperson for Ukraine's Eastern Grouping of Forces, told Ukrainian Pravda the soldiers have crossed over from camps in Belarus and have signed on with the Russians.
"They do not pose such a threat as they did, for example, a year ago, due to the loss of their main leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin," Yevlash said.
Prigozhin, frustrated by the Russian Defense Ministry's failure to provide enough ammunition for his forces in Ukraine, led thousands of his mercenaries into the Russian border city of Rostov-on-Don and began rolling toward Moscow. They abandoned the effort about 100 miles short of the capital under a deal that allowed them to reroute into Belarusk. Prigohzin was later killed in a suspicious plane crash.
Kremlin building railway connecting seized Ukraine cities to Russia
Russia has started building a railway connection to Ukraine that could provide a crucial alternative to Kremlin forces that depend on the Crimean Bridge, an adviser to the mayor of the occupied city of Melitopol said Wednesday. Petro Andriushchenko said work has begun connecting Ukraine's southeastern Donetsk rail line − from Mariupol to Volnovakha − with the Russian cities of Taganrog and Rostov-on-Don. If completed, the rail line could provide a drastic reduction in dependence on the Crimean Bridge, which has been damaged multiple times by Ukraine strikes that have inhibited its use for days, week or months at a time.
"It's not just chatter, they started building a railway bridge ... across the Kalmius River," Andriushchenko wrote on Telegram.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Ukraine war live updates: Russia accuses US of aiding attack on fleet