Kyiv, Ukraine –
Russian forces are raising “real hell” in the industrial heartland of eastern Ukraine, despite assessments that they were taking an operational pause, a regional governor said on Saturday, while another Ukrainian official urged people in the Russian-occupied southern areas to quickly evacuate “by all possible means.” in the face of a Ukrainian counteroffensive.
Deadly Russian shelling was reported in eastern and southern Ukraine.
Eastern Lugansk Region Governor Serhyi Haidai said Russia launched more than 20 artillery, mortar and rocket attacks on the region overnight and that its forces were pressing towards the border with the Donetsk region.
“We are trying to contain the armed formations of the Russians along the entire front line,” Haidai wrote on Telegram.
Last week, Russia captured the last major bastion of the Ukrainian resistance in Luhansk, the city of Lysychansk. Analysts predicted that it would probably take some time for Moscow’s troops to rearm and regroup.
But “so far there has been no operational pause announced by the enemy. It continues to attack and shell our lands with the same intensity as before,” Haidai said. He later said that the Russian shelling of Luhansk was called off because Ukrainian forces had destroyed ammunition depots and barracks used by the Russians.
Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk has called on residents of Russian-controlled territories in the south to evacuate quickly so that the occupying forces cannot use them as human shields during a Ukrainian counteroffensive.
“We have to find a way to get out, because our armed forces come to vacate,” he said. “There will be a massive fight.”
Speaking at a news conference on Friday night, Vereshchuk said a civilian evacuation effort was underway for parts of the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions. She declined to give details, citing security.
It was unclear how civilians were expected to safely leave Russian-held areas as missile strikes and artillery shelling continue in surrounding areas, whether they would be allowed to leave or heeded to the government’s call.
The death toll of the war continued to rise.
Five people were killed and eight more wounded in Friday’s Russian shelling of Siversk and Semyhirya in the Donetsk region, their governor Pavlo Kyrylenko wrote on Telegram on Saturday.
In the city of Sloviansk, designated as the next likely target of the Russian offensive, rescuers pulled a 40-year-old man from the rubble of a building destroyed by shelling on Saturday. Kyrylenko said several people were under the rubble.
Russian missiles also killed two people and wounded three others on Saturday in the southern city of Kryvyi Rih, according to regional authorities.
“They deliberately targeted residential areas,” Valentyn Reznichenko, governor of the eastern Dnipropetrovsk region, said on Telegram. Kryvyi Rih Mayor Oleksandr Vilkul claimed on Facebook that cluster bombs had been used and urged residents not to approach unknown objects on the streets. More explosions were reported on Saturday night.
Kryvyi Rih is the hometown of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who visited on Friday to meet Vilkul and the brigadier general who commands troops in the region. Zelenskyy’s office said he was briefed on the “construction of defensive structures,” the support of the troops, the supply of food and medicine to the city, and the help given to people who had fled to Kryvyi Roh after being expelled. from their homes elsewhere. Ukraine.
In northeastern Ukraine, a Russian rocket struck the center of Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, on Saturday, injuring six people, including a 12-year-old girl, authorities said.
“An Iskander ballistic missile was probably used,” the Kharkiv regional prosecutor’s office said. “One of the missiles hit a two-story building, leading to its destruction. Neighboring houses were damaged.”
The city has been attacked during the war, including several times in the last week. As survivor Valentina Mirgorodksaya cleaned a cut on her cheek, rescuers cautiously inspected the building destroyed by Saturday’s attack.
Mykolaiv Mayor Oleksandr Senkevych reported on Telegram that six Russian missiles were fired at his town in southern Ukraine near the Black Sea, but caused no casualties.
“On this day alone, Russia hit Mykolaiv, Kharkiv, Krivyi Rih, towns in the Zaporizhzhia region,” Zelenskyy said in his late-night video address. “He hit residential areas, absolutely consciously and on purpose… For days, the brutal attacks of the Russian artillery… do not stop. That terrorist action can only be stopped with weapons, modern and powerful.” “
Russian defense officials said on Saturday that their forces destroyed a hangar housing US howitzers in the Donetsk region near the town of Chasiv Yar. There was no immediate response from Ukraine.
In other Saturday news:
- Zelenskyy fired several ambassadors, including Ukraine’s ambassador to Germany, Andriy Melnyk, who has been an outspoken supporter of Kyiv’s cause but also unsettled Berlin. He was persistently critical of Germany’s perceived slowness in providing heavy weapons. He also faced criticism for an interview in which he defended Stepan Bandera, a controversial World War II-era Ukrainian nationalist. The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying that Melnyk was only speaking for himself. Zelenskyy said the ambassadorial firings were part of a routine rotation. Melnyk had held the post since 2015.
- Ukraine’s national police said it was opening a criminal investigation into the alleged destruction of crops by the Russian army in the southern Kherson region. In a Telegram post, he accused Russian troops of not allowing residents to put out fires in the fields and of sabotaging the harvest.
- The British Ministry of Defense said Russian forces in Ukraine were now armed with “obsolete or inappropriate equipment”, including MT-LB armored vehicles withdrawn from long-term storage that do not provide the same protection as modern tanks. “While MT-LBS have previously seen service in support roles on both sides, they have long been considered by Russia to be unsuitable for most front-line infantry transport roles,” the British ministry said on Twitter.
- Ukrainian Sports Minister Vadym Gutzeit said 100 Ukrainian athletes and coaches were killed on the battlefield or by Russian shelling, while 22 were captured by Russian forces. In a Facebook post, Gutzeit said that more than 3,000 athletes are now in uniform.
Associated Press journalists from across Ukraine contributed.
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