U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin (L) and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley (R) participate in a news briefing at the Pentagon May 23, 2022 in Arlington, Virginia.
Alex Wong | Getty Images
WASHINGTON — The Pentagon on Wednesday slammed Russia’s barrage of missile strikes across Ukrainian cities and said that Moscow’s deliberate targeting of energy infrastructure is a war crime.
“While assessments are ongoing, yesterday’s strikes looked like they launched at least 60 missiles and they may have launched upwards of 90 or even perhaps 100,” Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff U.S. Army Gen. Mark Milley told reporters at the Pentagon alongside Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.
“It was likely the largest wave of missiles that we’ve seen since the beginning of the war,” Milley said, adding “the deliberate targeting of the civilian power grid, causing excessive collateral damage and unnecessary suffering on the civilian population is a war crime.”
Milley added that more than a quarter of Ukrainians are estimated to be without power throughout the country and that many families will be without heat as the harsh winter season approaches.
Austin called Russia’s missile and rocket attacks on civilian infrastructure “deliberate cruelty” and called on Moscow to end its “war of choice.”
“Russia could put an end to it [the war] right now, but they won’t. They’re going to continue that fight until the winter as best we can tell,” Milley added.
The two leaders’ remarks to reporters at the Pentagon followed the seventh meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, a coalition of nearly 50 countries supporting Kyiv’s military needs.
Austin reaffirmed U.S. commitment to provide Ukraine with additional security assistance for “as long as it takes.” He added that so far the Biden administration has allocated more than $18 billion in weapons and aid.
“All Ukraine is asking for is the means to fight and we are determined to provide that means,” Milley said.
The meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group came hours after an explosion in Poland sparked Western concerns that Russia’s conflict in Ukraine was spilling over into NATO member countries.
Earlier Wednesday, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said there was no indication that the missile that struck the Polish border village was deliberate.
Stoltenberg added that initial assessments found the incident was caused by an air defense missile launched to “defend Ukrainian territory against Russian cruise missile attacks.”
He added that Russia was ultimately to blame, though, since Moscow provoked the conflict with a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in late February.
“Let me be clear, this is not Ukraine’s fault. Russia bears ultimate responsibility as it continues its illegal war against Ukraine,” Stoltenberg said.
Austin echoed similar sentiments from the Pentagon, saying, “the world knows that Russia bears ultimate responsibility for this incident.”
Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelenskyy requested access to the site in Poland and for Ukrainian inspectors to join the ongoing investigation of the explosion.