Russia steps up attacks on Ukraine amid counterattacks

Kyiv, Ukraine –

Russian forces launched massive missile strikes on Ukraine’s Kyiv and Chernihiv regions on Thursday, areas that have not been attacked in weeks, while Ukrainian authorities announced an operation to liberate an occupied region in the country’s south.

Kyiv Regional Governor Oleksiy Kuleba said on Telegram that a settlement in the region’s Vyshgorod district was attacked early Thursday morning; an “infrastructure object” was hit. It was not immediately clear if there were any casualties.

Vyshhgorod is located 20 kilometers north of the center of Kyiv. Kuleba linked the strikes to Statehood Day, which Ukraine celebrated for the first time on Thursday.

“Russia, with the help of missiles, is taking revenge on the widespread popular resistance, which the Ukrainians were able to organize precisely because of their statehood,” Kuleba told Ukrainian television. “Ukraine has already broken Russia’s plans and will continue to defend itself.”

Chernihiv Governor Vyacheslav Chaus reported that multiple missiles were fired from the territory of Belarus towards the village of Honcharivska.

Russian troops withdrew from the Kyiv and Chernihiv regions months ago after failing to capture either. The renewed attacks in the areas come a day after the leader of the pro-Kremlin separatists in the east, Denis Pushilin, made a public call for Russian forces to “liberate the Russian cities founded by the Russian people: Kyiv, Chernihiv, Poltava, Odessa, Dnipropetrovsk”. , Kharkiv, Zaporizhzhia, Lutsk.”

Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, also came under a barrage of shelling overnight, its mayor Ihor Terekhov said. The southern city of Mykolaiv was also attacked and one person was injured.

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian army continued to strike back in the occupied southern region of Kherson, hitting a key bridge over the Dnieper River on Wednesday.

Ukrainian media on Thursday quoted Ukraine’s presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovich as saying that the operation to liberate Kherson “has already started.” Arestovich said the Kyiv forces planned to cut off Russian troops there and leave them with three options: “withdraw, if possible, surrender or be destroyed.”

Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine’s National Defense and Security Council, in televised remarks on Wednesday said he was “cautious” in assessing the timetable of the possible counteroffensive. “I would really like it to be much faster,” he said, adding that “the enemy is now concentrating the maximum number (of forces) precisely in the direction of Kherson.”

“A large-scale movement of their troops has begun, they are gathering additional forces,” Danilov warned.

The British military estimated on Thursday that Ukraine’s counteroffensive in Kherson is “gaining momentum.”

“It is very likely that his forces have established a bridgehead south of the Ingulets River, which forms the northern boundary of Russian-occupied Kherson,” Britain’s Defense Ministry said on Thursday.

He added that Ukraine has used its new long-range artillery to damage at least three of the bridges that cross the Dnieper River, “on which Russia depends to supply the areas under its control.” The 1,000-meter-long Antonivsky Bridge, which Ukrainian forces attacked on Wednesday, is likely to be “unusable”, the British Ministry of Defense has concluded.

Ukraine’s presidential office said Thursday morning that Russian shelling of cities and towns over the past 24 hours has killed at least five civilians, all of them in the eastern Donetsk region, and wounded nine more.

Fighting in recent weeks has focused on the Donetsk region. It has intensified in recent days as Russian forces appeared to emerge from a reported “operational lull” after capturing the neighboring Lugansk region.

A missile hit a residential building in Toretsk early Thursday morning, destroying two floors. “Missile terror again. We will not give up… We will not be intimidated,” Donetsk Regional Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said on Telegram.

Analysts at the Institute for the Study of War believe that Russian forces are concentrating their efforts on capturing the cities of Bakhmut and Siversk in Donetsk province.

“Russian forces have committed sufficient resources to conduct near-daily ground attacks and seize territory in these two axes, but have been unable to maintain a similar offensive operational pace or achieve similar territorial gains elsewhere in Ukraine,” the Institute said.

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