Russia on Saturday stepped up its attack on Ukraine in the nearly five-month invasion, with civilian casualties reported in several areas.
At least three civilians were killed and three were injured in a Russian rocket strike on the northern Ukrainian city of Chuhuiv in the early hours, a regional police chief said.
Serhiy Bolvinov, deputy head of Kharkiv’s regional police force, said the rockets were likely fired from Russian territory. Chuhuiv lies some 120 kilometres from the border.
“Four Russian rockets, presumably fired from around (the Russian city of) Belgorod at night, at about 3:30, hit a residential building, a school and administrative buildings,” Bolvinov wrote on Facebook, adding that a two-storey apartment block was partly destroyed.
“The bodies of three people were found under the rubble. Three more were injured. The victims are civilians,” Bolvinov added.
In the neighbouring 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, Dmytro Zhyvytsky, regional governor, said on Telegram on Saturday morning.
Seven civilians were killed and 14 more received injuries in the most recent 24 hours in cities in Ukraine’s embattled eastern Donetsk region, its governor said Saturday morning.
Battle over strategic highway
Nearby, however, Ukrainian troops repelled a Russian overnight assault on a strategic eastern highway, said Serhiy Haidai, the governor of Luhansk region.
Haidai said Russia had been attempting to capture the main road link 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.
Russia’s defence chief told troops to step up operations across Ukrainian territory, according to social media updates from the Defence Ministry on Saturday.
A Facebook post said 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 to launch massive rocket and artillery strikes on civilian infrastructure and residents of settlements in Donbas and other regions.”
According to the post, Shoigu on Saturday inspected some of the Russian units that have served in Ukraine, handing out awards for bravery.
Russia’s military campaign has been focusing on the Donbas, covering Donetsk and Luhansk, but Russian forces also have been attacking other parts of the country in a push to wrest territory from Ukraine and soften the morale of its leaders, civilians and troops as the war nears the five-month mark.
Nikopol, Dnipro among cities hit
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 to a Telegram post by regional governor Vitaliy Kim.
Kim said Mykolaiv itself also came under renewed Russian fire in the early hours. On Friday morning, 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.”
Two people were killed and a woman was hospitalized after a Russian rocket strike on the eastern riverside city of Nikopol, emergency services said. Dnipro’s governor, Valentyn Reznichenko, said on Telegram that a five-storey apartment block, a school and a vocational school building were damaged in the southeastern Ukrainian city.
On Friday, cruise missiles fired by Russian strategic bombers struck Dnipro, killing at least three people and wounding 16, Ukrainian officials said.
In a regular media briefing Saturday, Russian defence officials said the strike had destroyed “workshops producing components for, and repairing, Tochka-U ballistic missiles, as well as multiple rocket launchers.” Spokesperson Igor Konashenkov did not respond to Ukrainian allegations the strike had killed civilians.
On Thursday, a Russian missile strike killed at least 23 people — including three children — and wounded more than 200 in Vinnytsia, a city southwest of Kyiv, the capital, far from the front line.
Russia said the Kalibr cruise missiles hit a “military facility” that was hosting a meeting between Ukrainian air force command and foreign weapons suppliers. Ukrainian authorities have insisted the site had nothing to do with the military.
Ukraine’s Interior Ministry said Friday that Russian forces have conducted more than 17,000 strikes on civilian targets during the war, killing thousands of fighters and civilians and driving millions from their homes. The invasion has also rippled through the world economy by hiking prices and crimping exports of key Ukrainian and Russian products such as grain, fuel and fertilizer.