Russia vows to step up operations as rockets pound Ukraine

by Jul 17, 2022World0 comments

Ukraine says at least 40 people have been killed in such attacks in urban areas in the past three days. Russia says it has been striking military targets.

Kyiv: Russia said Saturday its forces would step up military operations in Ukraine in “all operational areas” as Moscow rockets and missiles pounded cities in attacks that Kyiv says have killed dozens in recent days. Rockets hit the northeastern town of Chuhuiv in the Kharkiv region overnight, killing three people, including a 70-year-old woman, and wounding three others, regional governor Oleh Synehubov said.

“Three people lost their lives, why, why, because Putin went crazy?” said Raisa Shapoval, 83, a distraught resident sitting in the ruins of her home.

To the south, more than 50 Russian Grad rockets hit the town of Nikopol on the Dnipro River, killing two people who were found in the rubble, said the region’s governor, Valentyn Reznichenko.

Ukraine says at least 40 people have been killed in such attacks in urban areas in the past three days. Russia says it has been striking military targets.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu ordered military units to step up operations to prevent Ukrainian attacks in eastern Ukraine and other Russian-controlled areas, where he said Kyiv could attack civilian infrastructure or residents.

“Clearly, preparations are now underway for the next stage of the offensive,” said Vadym Skibitskyi, spokesman for Ukrainian military intelligence, adding that there was Russian shelling along the entire front line and active use of attack helicopters.

Shoigu, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, appeared in military uniform at a command post on the Defense Ministry’s Zvezda television channel, receiving briefings on the war and awarding “Gold Star” medals for heroism to two generals.

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His comments appeared to be a direct response to what Kyiv says is a series of successful attacks carried out on 30 Russian logistics and ammunition centers using several multiple-launch rocket systems recently supplied by the West.

Ukraine’s Defense Ministry spokesman said Friday that the attacks were wreaking havoc on Russian supply lines and had significantly reduced Russia’s offensive capabilities.

On Saturday, the Ukrainian military said Russia appeared to be regrouping units for an offensive toward Sloviansk, a symbolically important Ukrainian-held city in the Donetsk region.

WAR OF ATTRITION

While the focus of the war has shifted to Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region, Russian forces have been attacking towns in other parts of the country with missiles and rockets in what has become an increasingly wearing conflict.

Moscow, which launched what it called its “special military operation” against Ukraine on Feb. 24, says it uses high-precision weapons to degrade Ukraine’s military infrastructure and protect its own security. It has repeatedly denied targeting civilians.

Kyiv and the West say the conflict is an unprovoked attempt to recapture a country that freed itself from Moscow’s rule with the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.

In a recent attack that sparked outrage from Ukraine and its Western allies, Kalibr cruise missiles hit an office building in Vinnytsia, a town of 370,000 people about 200 km (125 miles) southwest of Kyiv, on Thursday.

Kyiv said the attack killed at least 23 people and wounded dozens. Among the dead was a 4-year-old girl with Down syndrome named Liza, found in the rubble next to a stroller. Images of her playing shortly before the attack quickly went viral.

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Russia’s Defense Ministry said the Vinnytsia attack targeted a building where senior officials of Ukraine’s armed forces were meeting with foreign arms suppliers.

Late Friday, Russian missiles hit the city of Dnipro, about 120 km (75 miles) north of Nikopol, killing three people and wounding 15, Reznychenko, governor of the Dnipropetrovsk region that includes both cities, said on Telegram, adding that an industry the plant and a busy street next door were hit.

“When the blast wave hit, there were few fragments because all my windows were taped up,” a local woman who identified herself as Klavdia told Reuters.

“The people whose windows were not protected like that, there was a lot of blood, their wounds were horrible. I saw a little boy all covered in blood. It was horrible,” she said.

Russia said it had destroyed a factory in Dnipro that made missile parts.

CONFLICT DIVIDES G20

War dominated a meeting of G20 finance ministers in Indonesia. U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said differences over the conflict had prevented finance chiefs and central bankers from issuing a formal communique, but they agreed on the need to address the worsening food security crisis.

“This is a challenging time because Russia is part of the G20 and disagrees with the rest of us on how to characterize the war,” Yellen said.

Western countries have imposed tough sanctions on Russia and accused it of war crimes in Ukraine, which Moscow denies. Other G20 nations, including China, India and South Africa, have been more muted in their response.

In one of the side effects of the conflict, a blockade restricting Ukrainian grain exports has prompted warnings that it could put millions of people in poorer countries at risk of starvation.

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Despite the bloodshed, both Russia and Ukraine described progress toward an agreement to lift a blockade in recent talks. Turkey, which is mediating, has said a deal could be signed next week.

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