The Kremlin yesterday squarely blamed the United States for an attack on Crimea with US-supplied ATACMS missiles that killed at least four people and injured 151, and Moscow formally warned the US ambassador that retaliation would follow.
The war in Ukraine has deepened a crisis in relations between Russia and the West, and Russian officials have said the conflict is entering the most dangerous escalation to date.
But directly blaming the United States for an attack on Crimea — which Russia unilaterally annexed in 2014 although most of the world considers it part of Ukraine — is a step further.
“You should ask my colleagues in Europe, and above all in Washington, the press secretaries, why their governments are killing Russian children,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
At least two children were killed in the attack on Sevastopol on Sunday, according to Russian officials. People were shown running from a beach near Sevastopol and some of the injured being carried off on sun loungers. Kyiv did not comment on the attack.
Russia said the United States had supplied the weapons, while the US military had aimed them and provided data.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry summoned US ambassador Lynne Tracy and told her Washington was “waging a hybrid war against Russia and has actually become a party to the conflict”. “Retaliatory measures will definitely follow,” it said.
Tracy said Washington regretted any loss to civilian life, State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller told reporters, adding that Washington provides weapons to Ukraine so it can defend its sovereign territory, including Crimea.
Pentagon spokesperson Major Charlie Dietz said that “Ukraine makes its own targeting decisions and conducts its own military operations.”
President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly warned of the risk of a much broader war involving the world’s biggest nuclear powers, though he has said Russia does not want a conflict with the US-led Nato alliance.
US President Joe Biden has ruled out sending US troops to fight in Ukraine and said shortly after the 2022 full-scale Russian invasion that a direct confrontation between Nato and Russia would mean World War Three.
Putin presents the Ukraine war as part of a wider struggle with the US, which he says ignored Moscow’s interests after the Soviet Union’s 1991 break-up, then plotted to split Russia apart and seize its natural resources.
Leaders of the West and Ukraine have cast the war as an imperial-style land-grab. The West denies wanting to destroy Russia, which in turn denies intending to invade any Nato member state.
After the United States allowed Ukraine to direct some US weapons into Russia, the Kremlin sent signals that it viewed this as a serious escalation.
Putin has ordered drills to practise deployment of tactical nuclear weapons, suggested Russia could station conventional missiles within striking distance of the United States and its allies, and sealed a mutual defence pact with North Korea.
Washington still prohibits Kyiv from striking recognised Russian territory with ATACMS, which have a range of up to 186 miles, and other long-range US weapons.
Putin said on Thursday that Russia might supply weapons to North Korea in what he suggested would be a like-for-like response to the Western arming of Ukraine.
Asked what the Russian answer would be to the attack in Crimea, Peskov recalled Putin’s words on June 6 about wider placement of conventional weapons.
“Of course, the involvement of the United States in the fighting, as a result of which peaceful Russians are dying, cannot but have consequences,” Peskov said.
“Which ones exactly — time will tell.”
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