-Russian missiles pound east Ukraine, hit Kharkiv –
Russian troops shelled Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region on Saturday as Ukrainian officials accused Moscow of preparing further attacks and Washington promised new military aid to Kyiv.
Having endured long battles to capture cities in the neighbouring Luhansk region, Russia is now seeking to push deeper into Donetsk to consolidate its hold over the entire Donbas region in the east.
Four and a half months into the war, residents in the town of Druzhkivka, in northern Donetsk, woke up Saturday to a suspected missile attack which ripped apart a supermarket and gouged a crater into the ground.
Five people were killed in the Donetsk region in the past 24 hours while seven were injured, Ukrainian officials said Saturday.
Serhiy Haidai, the governor of Luhansk region, said the Russians were attacking Donetsk from bases in his region.
“We are trying to contain their armed formations along the entire frontline… Where it is inconvenient for them to go forward, they create real hell, shelling the territories on the horizon,” he said.
Oleksandr Vilkul, mayor of President Volodymyr Zelensky’s hometown of Kryvyi Rih in central Ukraine, said Russia had attacked the city with cluster munitions, killing at least one person and injuring two.
Russia’s defence ministry said Saturday it had inflicted heavy losses in the Mykolaiv and Dnipropetrovsk regions, in southern and central Ukraine respectively, and claimed strikes on Donetsk and the Kharkiv region.
Ukrainian emergency services said six civilians were wounded, four of whom were taken to hospital, in Ukraine’s second city of Kharkiv, when a rocket tore through a two-storey residential building on Saturday.
– ‘Massive fighting’ –
“The eyes of all aggressive political movements and regimes in the world are now focused on what Russia is doing against us, against Ukraine,” Zelensky said in an Instagram post.
“Will the world be able to bring real war criminals to justice?” he asked, warning failure to do so would lead to “hundreds of other aggressions”.
Away from the Donbas, the mayor of Mykolaiv begged citizens not to leave shelters, as he said explosions were heard throughout the night.
Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk was quoted by Ukrainian media as urging civilians in occupied areas to evacuate by any means possible.
“Massive fighting is going to happen,” she said.
“The entire frontline is under relentless shelling,” Donetsk military administration chief Pavlo Kyrylenko said in a Telegram message late Friday.
He accused Russian troops of shelling “day and night” the city of Sloviansk and of torching agricultural fields in a bid to “destroy the harvest by all means”.
Kyrylenko warned the Russians were in the process of replenishing troops in the region to prepare for further assaults.
In a boost to Kyiv, Washington announced $400 million of further military aid, including a type of artillery ammunition with “greater precision”, and that has previously not been sent.
– Recruits train in England –
“It’s a further evolution in our support for Ukraine in this battle in the Donbas,” a senior defence official was quoted by the US Department of Defense as saying.
Also included in the aid package are four additional High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems to add to eight already in place.
Britain’s defence ministry on Saturday said the first group of up to 10,000 inexperienced Ukrainian military recruits began training in England as part of a UK-led programme.
The United States also put pressure on Russia at a meeting of Group of 20 foreign ministers in Indonesia.
Washington and allies condemned Russia’s assault ahead of the gathering before Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov faced what US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called a barrage of Western criticism at the closed-door talks.
Blinken on Saturday called for China to distance itself from Russia after talks with his Chinese counterpart in Indonesia.
Blinken said he told Wang Yi: “This really is a moment where we all have to stand up, as we heard country after country in the G20 do, to condemn the aggression, to demand among other things that Russia allow access to food that is stuck in Ukraine”.
He added there were “no signs” Moscow was willing to engage after the G20 talks.
“If there is an opportunity for diplomacy, we will seize it,” he said.
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