Ukrainian strikes on Russian ships in the Black Sea. Waves of drones fired on Moscow. A Russian attack on a Ukrainian port on the Danube river near the Romanian border. With these strikes, both sides have opened a new dimension to the 17-month-old war, which until now had largely been fought in grinding battles in Ukraine.
And they are taking the war to people and areas that may have been spared the brunt of the fighting. For Ukraine, the increasingly bolder attacks are part of a stated objective to try to force ordinary Russians to reckon with the toll of the war. For Russia, which in recent weeks also has increasingly targeted the Black Sea port of Odesa, it is part of a campaign to expand attacks on Kyiv’s ability to export its agricultural products, a vital part of Ukraine’s economy.
Nearly a year and a half after the Kremlin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, thousands of Ukrainian civilians have died and millions more have become inured to the brutality of war. But the budding new theaters of battle are a sign that as the fighting stretches on, more and more people will have to suffer the toll of the war.
Talks to end the fighting have yet to yield any significant progress, but Kyiv, under the leadership of President Volodymyr Zelensky, is pushing on both fronts: diplomatic and military.
As part of the diplomatic push, representatives from Ukraine and about 40 other countries — with the notable exception of Russia — gathered in Saudi Arabia over the weekend in an effort to build international consensus for a peace settlement. The parties agreed broadly that the contours of international law would have to be followed to bring a stop to fighting. And China, which has cast itself as neutral, was open to the idea of holding further discussions, according to a European Union official.
Over the weekend in Ukraine, Russian strikes claimed more civilian lives and damaged homes, according to Ukrainian officials, who did not immediately give details about the number of victims and casualties. Moscow fired dozens of missiles at Ukrainian troops and civilian targets, forcing Ukrainian officials to briefly put many regions under air alert warnings on Saturday night.
On Sunday morning, explosions were reported in the Kharkiv region, in Ukraine’s east. It was not immediately clear what caused the blasts and how much, if any, damage or casualties they caused. Earlier Sunday, Ukrainian military officials said that the country’s air defense had shot down about 20 Russian Kalibr cruise missiles. It wasn’t immediately possible to verify that claim. Mr. Zelensky praised Ukrainian soldiers fighting aerial battles and lauded them in honor of Air Force day on Sunday in Ukraine.
Hours earlier, in his nightly address, Mr. Zelensky again pleaded for a united world order against Russia. And he remained stubborn on the need to fight back.
“The main thing is that all of us in Ukraine and everyone in the world, who value a normal life, work at one hundred percent without any stop for the sake of victory,” Mr. Zelensky said. “Our unity, our ability to build strength, and our ability to bring war back to where it came from. It is the most tangible for Russia.”
Matina Stevis-Gridneff contributed reporting.