Putin in 'panic' over revolution in Moscow as hypersonic missiles launched in Ukraine

19 March 2022, 07:25 | Updated: 19 March 2022, 18:34

Russia claims to have used a hypersonic missile to strike targets in Ukraine
Russia claims to have used a hypersonic missile to strike targets in Ukraine. Picture: Russian MoD @mod_russia/Alamy

By Asher McShane

Vladimir Putin has been “panicking” over the prospect of a revolution in Moscow, Boris Johnson said, as Russia claimed to have used hypersonic missiles for the first time in Ukraine.

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Kremlin officials said the ordnance, designed to be so fast that anti-missile defence systems can't detect them, was used to destroy a Ukrainian ammo stockpile in the west of the country.

The Kinzhal – or “Dagger” – missile is believed to have a range of 1,250 miles. Its speed and ability to fly low makes it “invisible” to most anti-missile defence systems.

Russia's Ministry of Defence shared a video on Twitter of the alleged "high-precision missile strike", which has not yet been independently confirmed.

Boris Johnson said Putin, who has stepped up his attack in recent days, was in a "total panic" about the prospect of a revolution in Moscow.

The Prime Minister told the Tory spring party conference that for Putin, a free and democratic Ukraine was a threat to his style of rule.

"With every year that Ukraine progressed - not always easily - towards freedom and democracy and open markets, he feared the Ukrainian example and he feared the implicit reproach to himself.

"Because in Putin's Russia you get jailed for 15 years just for calling an invasion an invasion, and if you stand against Putin in an election you get poisoned or shot.

"It's precisely because Ukraine and Russia have been so historically close that he has been terrified of the effect of that Ukrainian model on him and on Russia."

Igor Konashenkov, a spokesman for the Russian Defence Ministry, said they destroyed an underground warehouse storing ammunition for Ukrainian troops in the western Ivano-Frankivsk region in an attack on Friday.

The Ministry of Defence in London says Russia has been forced to change its approach to a war of "attrition", which is likely to involve the indiscriminate use of firepower.

In the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol, a race against time is under way to save hundreds of people who are still feared trapped in the bombed ruins of a theatre.

Rescuers are racing to try and free people trapped under the theatre in Mariupol
Rescuers are racing to try and free people trapped under the theatre in Mariupol. Picture: Alamy/Getty

Up to 1,200 people are feared to still be trapped under the wreckage of the destroyed Drama Theatre which was hit by Vladimir Putin's forces on Wednesday. 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky last night vowed to continue the rescue mission.

"Hundreds of Mariupol residents are still under the debris. Despite the shelling, despite all the difficulties, we will continue the rescue work," he said.

Rescue workers are still searching for survivors despite continued attacks by Russian forces.

Russia denies hitting the theatre.

Some of the heaviest fighting has been in Mariupol, where 400,000 people have been trapped for over two weeks.

Officials there say fighting has reached the city centre and that near-constant shelling has been preventing humanitarian aid from getting in.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) said this morning that Russia "has been forced" to change its operational approach in Ukraine "and is now pursuing a strategy of attrition".

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"This is likely to involve the indiscriminate use of firepower resulting in increased civilian casualties, destruction of Ukrainian infrastructure, and intensify the humanitarian crisis," the ministry said in its latest intelligence update.

"Putin has reinforced his control over Russian domestic media.

"The Kremlin is attempting to control the narrative, detract from operational problems and obscure high Russian casualty numbers from the Russian people."

The UK government also announced this morning that two million medical items have now been donated to Ukraine,.

Supplies including painkillers, insulin shots and intensive care equipment are expected to arrive in the war-torn region in the coming days, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky the Government knows it "must do more" to help the embattled country as it resists Russia's invasion.

Some 10 flights carrying medical supplies have departed Stansted, Heathrow and RAF Brize Norton over the past three weeks, the DHSC said.

And, following an urgent request from Ukraine, a refrigerated truck left for the region on Friday carrying insulin injections and drugs critical for surgery, the department said.

The figure of two million includes all donations to date and is made up of each individual item and each dose of medicine.

Resuscitators, cannulas and face masks are among the kit delivered so far.

Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said the UK stands "shoulder to shoulder" with Ukraine in the face of Russia's "appalling" attack, which was launched on February 24.

"We're leading the humanitarian effort to support Ukraine by providing targeted medical support to those in need. In less than three weeks, the UK has donated more than two million medical items," Mr Javid said.

"Tens of thousands of sick or injured Ukrainians have now received treatment thanks to the donations made by NHS England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland."

Speaking at the Scottish Conservative conference in Aberdeen on Friday, the Prime Minister said he had spoken to Mr Zelensky that morning.

"From my office, I said, 'We stand with you at a time when your people are facing such horror with such courage," he said.

"'When you're fighting, not just for your lives and your homes - for the cause of democracy and freedom itself - we know that we must do more to help.

"'I pledge to you that we will.'"

Fighting in Ukraine reached the centre of southern port city Mariupol, where many civilians were still trapped on Friday.

Russia also launched an early morning attack on Lviv, the city's mayor said, as British intelligence suggested Russian President Vladimir Putin's invasion made "minimal progress" this week.

An update from the Ministry of Defence said Ukrainian forces were continuing to "frustrate" Moscow's attempt to encircle cities including Kyiv and Mykolai.

Shelling around the capital Kyiv also continued as the number of refugees estimated to have fled the war exceeded 3.4 million.

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