Russia-Ukraine War: Ukraine Overhauls Senior Ranks of Defense Ministry

A damaged apartment block compound in Kyiv in November last year.Credit…David Guttenfelder for The New York Times

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine threatened to escalate attacks on Russia if Moscow repeated last winter’s strategy of bombarding Ukrainian power plants that left millions of Ukrainians fighting freezing temperatures without power, heat and water.

The warning, issued by Mr. Zelensky in an interview with the CBS News show “60 Minutes,” comes as the war heads into another winter and as Ukraine has demonstrated it can reach targets deep inside Russia.

“If you cut off our power, deprive us of electricity, deprive us of water, deprive us of gasoline, you need to know we have the right to do it” too, Mr. Zelensky said, according to a transcript released by “60 Minutes.” The Russian leader, Vladimir V. Putin, had ordered attacks on civilian targets, Mr. Zelensky added, in a bid to “break” the Ukrainians’ spirit.

Last winter, Russia sought to weaponize the weather, a campaign that ultimately failed but at times left millions of Ukrainians without heat and reliant on old wells for water. This year, Ukraine is boldly threatening to do the same to Russians, relying mainly on attack drones.

In recent months, the frequency of drones fired at Russian targets has increased dramatically. They have hit a key bridge linking the Crimean Peninsula with Russia, recently damaged Russian naval ships in the region and menaced the border region of Belgorod. They have also penetrated deep inside Russian borders — as far as the greater Moscow region — but have not caused significant damage there.

Ukraine does not officially acknowledge attacks inside Russian territory even though Mr. Zelensky and other top officials have said that they intend to bring the war to ordinary Russians. In the “60 Minutes” interview, Mr. Zelensky again tried to be ambiguous about the strikes even though he said, “Ukrainian drones have vaulted into Russia itself, hitting the Kremlin, warplanes and Moscow high rises.”

He went on to insist that he was not ordering the drone attacks and that Ukraine uses weapons provided by its allies only on Ukrainian territory.

“But Russia needs to know that wherever it is, whichever place they use for launching missiles to strike Ukraine, Ukraine has every moral right to send a response to those places,” Mr. Zelensky said. “We are responding to them saying: ‘Your sky is not as well protected, as you think.’”

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