12 killed in Ukraine as Russia bombs province claimed by rebels


Russian shelling has killed at least eight civilians in Ukraine over the past 24 hours and wounded 25 more, Ukrainian officials said Wednesday. Pro-Russian separatists said attacks by Ukrainian forces killed four civilians.

Ukraine’s presidential office said Russian forces attacked cities and towns in the country’s southeast, with most of the civilian casualties occurring in Donetsk province, where Russia has stepped up its offensive in recent days.

Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said in a Telegram post that two people were killed in the city of Avdiivka, which is in the center of the province, with the Donetsk cities of Sloviansk, Krasnohorivka and Kurakhove each reporting one civilian dead.

“Every crime will be punished,” he wrote.

Kyrylenko urged the more than 350,000 remaining residents of the province to flee Tuesday night, saying evacuating Donetsk was necessary to save lives and allow the Ukrainian army to better defend itself against the Russian advance.

Donetsk is part of Donbas, a largely Russian-speaking industrial area where Ukraine’s most experienced soldiers are concentrated. Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday declared the total seizure of the region’s other province, Lugansk, after Ukrainian troops withdrew from his country’s last city.

Luhansk Governor Serhiy Haidai denied on Wednesday that the Russians had fully captured the province. Heavy fighting continued in villages around Lysychansk, the town from which Ukrainian soldiers withdrew and which Russian troops took on Sunday, he said.

“The Russians have paid a high price, but the Luhansk region is not completely captured by the Russian army,” Haidai said. “Some settlements have already been invaded by each side multiple times.”

He accused Russian forces of scorched earth tactics, “burning and destroying everything in their path.”

As many as 15,000 residents remain in Lysychansk and some 8,000 in the nearby city of Sievierodonetsk, which Russian and separatist fighters seized last month, Haidai said.

Pro-Russian separatists fought Ukrainian forces and controlled much of Donbas for eight years. Before Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, Putin recognized the independence of the region’s two self-proclaimed breakaway republics.

Separatist authorities in Donetsk said on Wednesday that four civilians were killed and 14 others wounded in Ukrainian shelling in the past 24 hours. News reports said shelling hit an ammunition depot on Tuesday, triggering massive explosions.

Since Russian forces made no headway in capturing Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, Moscow has concentrated its offensive on seizing the remaining areas of the Donbas held by Ukraine.

North of Donetsk, Russian forces also targeted Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, with missile strikes overnight, Kharkiv’s regional governor said Wednesday on Telegram.

Three districts of the city were attacked, Governor Oleh Syniehubov said. One person was killed and three, including a small child, were injured, according to the governor.

A missile hit a building where military registration is carried out. A government building next door remained untouched, and people a few steps away glanced at the wreckage as they passed.

Closer to the front line and in a more abandoned district of the city, rescuers walked through the rubble of another overnight attack on the national teaching university in Kharkiv. Dusty textbook pages fluttered in the breeze.

The attacks indicated that the city, which sits close to the Russian border, is unlikely to get a reprieve as the war moves into its fifth month.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said its air force killed up to 100 Ukrainian soldiers and destroyed four armored vehicles in Kkarkiv.

The ministry’s chief spokesman, Igor Konashenkov, said the high-precision air-launched missiles also destroyed two HIMARS multiple launch rocket systems that the United States sent to Ukraine. He said ammunition stores were also destroyed in Donetsk province, while a Ukrainian air defense radar and a camp housing foreign fighters were attacked in the Mykolaiv region of southern Ukraine.

In other developments:

— European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the 27-nation European Union needs to make contingency plans to prepare for a complete cut-off of Russian gas in the wake of the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine. The EU has already imposed sanctions on Russia, including on some energy supplies, and is trying to find other sources. But von der Leyen said the bloc had to be prepared for disturbances from Moscow.

— European Union lawmakers have voted to support a plan by the bloc’s executive committee to include natural gas and nuclear power on its list of sustainable activities. Environmentalists accused the EU of “greenwashing”. One argument for rejecting the proposal was that it could boost gas sales that benefit Russia. The European Commission said it had a letter from the Ukrainian government supporting its position.

— A court in Russia has ordered a pipeline carrying oil from Kazakhstan to Europe to be halted for 30 days over what it calls environmental violations, Russian media reported. The ruling by a court in the southern Russian city of Novorossiysk cited the results of a recent inspection by the Caspian Pipeline Consortium. Kazakh leader Kassym-Jomart Tokayev told EU Council President Charles Michel on Tuesday that Kazakhstan “is ready to use its hydrocarbon potential to stabilize the situation on world and European markets.”


Murru and Cara Anna contributed from Kharkiv.


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