- Ukrainian officials issued air raid alerts on Saturday evening for areas covering roughly two-thirds of the country, from Kyiv and regions to the west through the east as well as south to Kherson region and Russian-annexed Crimea.
- Ukraine’s air force intercepted and downed a hypersonic Russian missile with an American Patriot defense system.
- Six Ukrainian demining workers were killed and two were injured as Russian shelling intensifies in Kherson Oblast.
- A fired Russian general known as the “Butcher of Mariupol” has a new job. He’s joining forces with the Wagner mercenary group.
Russia is facing one of its worst labor shortages in decades and the war in Ukraine in partially to blame, the British Defense Ministry said Sunday in an intelligence update about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine posted on Twitter.
The Russian Central Bank conducted the survey over the last three years and found that the Russian population has decreased by 2 million people more than expected. This was due, the report said, to the war in Ukraine and the COVID pandemic.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry claimed on Saturday that Ukraine and the West are responsible for a car bombing that injured a prominent nationalist Russian writer and killed his driver.
Russian writer Zakhar Prilepin, known for his pro-war views, suffered serious leg injuries after his car exploded Saturday in the Nizhny Novgorod Oblast, Russia’s state news agency Tass reported, citing emergency and law enforcement officials.
Prilepin was still conscious after his Audi Q7 car exploded near the city of Nizhny Novgorod, about 400 kilometers east of Moscow, and he was taken to the nearest hospital, according to Russian news agency RBC.
Prilepin was in stable condition under a medically induced coma after his operation, Russian state news agency TASS reported, and a suspect in the assassination attempt was arrested Saturday.
“Responsibility for this and other terrorist acts lies not only with Ukrainian authorities, but also their Western patrons, the United States in the first instance,” the Russian ministry statement stated, without providing evidence.
The statement added that Washington’s failure to denounce this and other attacks was “self-revealing” for the U.S. administration.
Officials at the White House, Pentagon and State Department did not immediately respond to Reuters’ requests for comment. No comment was immediately available from Britain’s Foreign Office, the wire agency reported.
Ukraine’s security would neither confirm nor deny involvement in the car bombing that injured the Russian writer or other attacks.
“Officially, we cannot confirm or deny the SBU’s involvement in this or other explosions which occur with the occupiers or their henchmen,” Ukraine news agency Ukrinform quoted Ukraine security officials saying.
Prilepin was sanctioned in 2022 by Ukraine, the European Union, the U.K. and Canada for supporting the Russian invasion. He joined Russia’s National Guard to fight against Ukraine in January, according to several Russian media reports.
Hypersonic missile downed
Ukraine’s air force said Saturday it had intercepted and downed a Russian hypersonic missile over Kyiv using newly acquired American Patriot defense systems.
This is the first known time the country has been able to intercept one of Moscow’s most modern missiles, The Associated Press reported.
Ukrainian Air Force Commander Mykola Oleshchuk said in a post on the messaging app Telegram that the Kinzhal-type ballistic missile had been intercepted in an overnight attack on the Ukrainian capital earlier in the week. It was the first time Ukraine is known to have used the Patriot defense system.
Flying at 10 times the speed of sound, the Kinzhal is one of the latest and most advanced Russian weapons, and it is difficult to intercept.
Using hypersonic speed and a powerful warhead, the Kinzhal is capable of demolishing robustly fortified targets such as underground bunkers and deep mountain tunnels.
In an interview on Ukraine TV, Air Force spokesman Yurii Ihnat said intercepting the Kinzhal was “a slap in the face for Russia.”
The first delivery of Patriot missiles arrived in Ukraine in late April. Ukraine has not specified how many of the systems it has received from the United States, Germany and the Netherlands, or where they have been deployed.
Meanwhile, Russia wants a victory in the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut on May 9, but the chief of the Wagner Group, a Russian mercenary force that is fighting there, has threatened to retreat from the city by May 10 if he does not receive critically needed ammunition and other supplies from Moscow.
In a video posted on his Telegram channel Friday, Yevgeny Prigozhin unleashed a tirade directed at Russia’s military officials, accusing them of negligence and incompetence. Pointing toward a field covered with dead soldiers, he screamed at the camera, “These are … someone’s fathers and someone’s sons” he said. “We have a 70% shortage of ammunition!”
“If you give [us] the normal amount of ammunition, there will be five times fewer [dead soldiers],” he said.
Fired Russian Deputy Defense Minister Colonel General Mikhail Mizintsev, known as the “Butcher of Mariupol,” has joined the Wagner Group as a deputy commander, according to Russian social media channels.
In two videos posted by war correspondent Alexander Simonov on Telegram, Mizintsev — dressed in Wagner-branded combat gear — was shown visiting a training camp and touring Russian positions in the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut.
The footage coincided with the release of Prigozhin’s videotaped tirade, in which the Wagner chief accused Moscow of depriving his forces of ammunition because of jealousy over their success, Reuters reported.
In other developments, Ukrainian Deputy Minister of Defense Hanna Maliar said Friday Moscow is sending reinforcements to Bakhmut. She said the Kremlin is pulling Wagner mercenary fighters from other parts of the front line to redeploy them there.
Prigozhin said Friday his mercenary army had planned to capture Bakhmut by May 9, or Victory Day, the anniversary of the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany in World War II, for which Moscow is organizing a large parade.
Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed the parade preparations in a meeting Friday with his Security Council, the RIA Novosti news agency reported.
Putin will preside over the annual military parade at Red Square despite the Kremlin’s assertions that Ukraine tried to kill him in a drone attack Wednesday. Kyiv has denied any involvement in the incident.
Some material in this report came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.