Russia holds the US responsible for the deaths in Crimea and promises to retaliate

Russia has accused the US of being responsible for a Ukrainian missile strike on Sevastopol in occupied Crimea on Sunday, which officials claim killed four people, including two children, and injured around 150 more as missile debris fell on a nearby beach.

The Russian defense ministry stated that the missiles used by Ukraine were US-supplied ATACMS missiles, allegedly programmed by US specialists. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov condemned the strike as "barbaric" and accused the US of "killing Russian children." He referred to President Vladimir Putin's recent vow to target countries supplying weapons to Ukraine.

According to Moscow, the casualties were caused by falling debris after air defenses intercepted five missiles with cluster warheads launched by Ukrainian forces. Russian state TV showed footage of chaos on the beach in the Uchkuyevka area, with people fleeing and injured individuals being carried away on sun loungers.

The Russian defense ministry reiterated that all ATACMS missiles are programmed by US specialists and guided by American satellites. A White House National Security Council spokesperson told the BBC that Ukraine makes its own targeting decisions and conducts its own military operations. The US has been supplying ATACMS missiles to Ukraine for over a year, enabling Ukrainian forces to strike targets up to 300km (186 miles) away.

Despite Moscow's illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014, only a few countries recognize the peninsula as Russian territory. Therefore, it does not fall under US restrictions on Ukraine using American-supplied weapons to strike Russian territory. However, Peskov emphasized that the US's direct involvement, resulting in Russian civilian casualties, would have consequences, though he did not specify what they would be.

The Russian foreign ministry summoned US Ambassador Lynne Tracy on Monday and issued a statement accusing the US of involvement in an "atrocity" and promising it would not go unpunished. Moscow has repeatedly threatened to target countries supplying weapons to Ukraine, considering them legitimate military targets.

Peskov asserted that the US is directly behind the attacks, referencing Putin's comments about who is operating these sophisticated missiles. Earlier this month, Putin warned that if Western countries continue supplying weapons to Ukraine, Russia might supply similar weapons to other regions in retaliation, hinting at an asymmetric response.

Ukrainian officials defended the strike, labeling Crimea a legitimate target. Mykhailo Podolyak, a top aide to President Volodymyr Zelensky, described the peninsula as "a large military camp" with numerous military targets concealed by civilians. The UN's human rights monitoring mission in Ukraine reports that at least 10,000 civilians have been killed since Russia's invasion in February 2022, with the actual number likely being much higher.


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