KYIV/ MOSCOW: Russian forces have fired missiles and shells at cities and towns across Ukraine after Russia’s military announced it was stepping up its onslaught against its neighbor, with Ukrainian officials reporting that at least 17 more civilians had been killed.
Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu gave “instructions to further intensify the actions of units in all operational areas, in order to exclude the possibility of the Kyiv regime launching massive rocket and artillery attacks on civilian infrastructure and residents of settlements in the Donbas and other regions,” his ministry said on Saturday.
Russia’s military campaign has been focusing on the eastern Donbas region, but the new attacks hit areas in the north and south as well. Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, has seen especially severe bombardments in recent days, with Ukrainian officials and local commanders voicing fears that a second full-scale Russian assault on the northern city may be looming.
At least three civilians were killed and three more were injured on Saturday in a pre-dawn Russian rocket attack on the northern Ukrainian city of Chuhuiv, which is close to Kharkiv and only 120km (75 miles) from the Russian border, a regional police chief said.
Serhiy Bolvinov, the deputy head of Kharkiv’s regional police force, said the rockets partly destroyed a two-storey apartment building.
“Four Russian rockets, presumably fired from around (the Russian city of) Belgorod at night, at about 3:30am, hit a residential building, a school and administrative buildings,” Bolvinov wrote on Facebook. He said the bodies of the three dead civilians were found under the rubble.
In the neighboring Sumy region, one civilian was killed and at least seven more were injured after Russians opened mortar and artillery fire on three towns and villages not far from the Russian border, regional governor Dmytro Zhyvytsky said Saturday on Telegram.
In the embattled eastern Donetsk region, seven civilians were killed and 14 wounded in the last 24 hours in attacks on cities, its governor said Saturday.
Later in the day, on the outskirts of Pokrovsk, a city in the Donetsk region, a woman said a neighbor was killed by a rocket attack Saturday afternoon. Tetiana Pashko told The Associated Press she herself suffered a cut on her leg, and one of her family’s dogs was killed.
She said her 35-year-old neighbor, killed while in her front yard, had evacuated earlier this year as authorities had requested but had returned home after being unable to support herself. Several homes on a quiet residential street were damaged, with doors and roofs torn up or ripped away.
In the neighboring Luhansk region, Ukrainian troops repelled a Russian overnight assault on a strategic eastern highway, regional governor Serhiy Haidai said, adding that Russia had been attempting to capture the main road between the cities of Lysychansk and Bakhmut for more than two months.
“They still cannot control several kilometres of this road,” Haidai wrote in a Telegram post.
The Luhansk and Donetsk regions make up the Donbas, an eastern industrial region that used to power Ukraine’s economy and has mostly been taken over by Russian and separatist forces.
In Ukraine’s south, two people were wounded by Russian shelling in the town of Bashtanka, northeast of the Black Sea city of Mykolaiv, according the regional governor, Vitaliy Kim. He said Mykolaiv itself came under renewed Russian fire before dawn Saturday. On Friday, he posted videos of what he said was a Russian missile attack on the city’s two largest universities and denounced Russia as “a terrorist state”.
In Odesa, a port city on the Black Sea, a Russian missile hit a warehouse, engulfing it in flames and sending up a plume of black smoke, but no injuries were reported, local officials said.
Meanwhile, Nearly 30,000 people, including more than 5,000 children, have been “evacuated” from Ukraine to Russia over the past day without the participation of Ukrainian authorities, says the head of Russia’s national defence control centre.
Russia is preparing for the next stage of its offensive in Ukraine, a Ukrainian military official has said, after Moscow said its forces would step up actions in “all operational areas”. (Int’l Monitoring Desk)