On Saturday, Russian airplanes bombed Lviv and missiles attack Kyiv and Kharkiv, as Moscow followed through on a vow to unleash more long-range attacks on Ukrainian cities after its Black Sea Fleet’s flagship was sunk.
Russian troops pressed recent advances in beleaguered Mariupol, location of the conflict’s toughest combat and greatest humanitarian disaster, trying to make up for their inability to seize Kyiv by winning their first big prize of the war.
Moscow said that one of its jets had collided with a tank repair factory in the city, where an explosion was heard and smoke was spotted in the southeastern Darnytskyi neighbourhood. According to Kyiv’s mayor, at least one person has died, and medics are battling to save others.
According to Ukraine’s military, Russian aeroplanes flying from Belarus fired missiles at the Lviv region near the Polish border, where four cruise missiles were shot down by Ukrainian air defences.
Reuters journalists reached the Ilyich steel factory in Mariupol, which Moscow claimed to have conquered on Friday, one of two massive metals complexes where defenders have held out in underground tunnels and bunkers.
The plant had been reduced to a silent ruin of twisted steel and shattered concrete, with no trace of defenders. Outside, at least a half-dozen civilian dead were spread on surrounding streets, including one of a woman wearing a pink coat and white sneakers.
Someone has spraypainted “mined” on an obliterated fence filling station forecourt. In a rare sign of life, one red car drove slowly down an otherwise empty street, the word “children” scrawled on a card taped to the windshield.
According to the governor of Kharkiv region in Ukraine’s east, at least one person was killed and 18 were injured in a missile strike. Russia claimed to have targeted a military vehicle repair factory in Mykolaiv, a city close to the southern front.
The attacks came after Russia announced on Friday that it will step up long-range strikes in reprisal for unnamed acts of “sabotage” and “terrorism,” only hours after the loss of its Black Sea flagship, the Moskva.
According to Kyiv and Washington, the ship was hit by Ukrainian missiles. According to Moscow, it sank as a result of a fire.
After withdrawing from the north during a month and a half of President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, Russia is now attempting to grab territory in the south and east. massive assault on Kyiv that was repelled at the capital’s outskirts.
Russian soldiers withdrawing from the north left villages littered with civilian deaths, evidence of what US President Joe Biden called genocide last week — an attempt to obliterate Ukrainian national identity.
Russia denies targeting people and claims that its “special military operation” is intended to disarm its neighbour, defeat nationalists, and protect separatists in the southeast.
‘EVACUATE WHILE IT IS STILL POSSIBLE’
Ukraine said its troops are still holding out in Mariupol’s ruins, where the defence is centred on Azovstal, another massive steel plant that has yet to yield.
“The situation in Mariupol is tense… Fighting is now taking place. “The Russian army is continually calling for reinforcements to invade the city,” defence ministry spokesman Oleksandr Motuzyanyk said in a television interview briefing.
Ukraine’s richest man, Rinat Akhmetov, who owns both of Mariupol’s massive steel plants, has committed to reconstruct the city.
“Mariupol is both a worldwide tragedy and a global heroism.” Mariupol has always been and will always be a Ukrainian city for me,” Akhmetov told Reuters.
If Mariupol falls, it will be Russia’s most valuable prize thus far in the war. It is the principal port of the Donbas, a territory of two provinces in the southeast demanded by Moscow to be entirely given to separatists.
Ukraine claims that it has so far resisted Russian advances in the Donbas. One person was killed and three others were injured in shelling in Luhansk, one of the Donbas regions, according to Governor Serhiy Gaidai in an online statement.
According to Gaidai, a gas pipeline was broken in the frontline towns of Lysychansk and Severodonetsk, leaving them without gas and water. There were buses available for individuals who wanted to go. “Evacuate while you still have the chance.”
Ukraine grabbed the upper hand early in a battle that many Western military experts believed it would lose swiftly. It has successfully deployed mobile units armed with Western-supplied anti-tank missiles against massive Russian armoured convoys limited to highways by muddy terrain.
Putin, on the other hand, is keen to seize more Donbas territory in order to declare success in a war that has left Russia vulnerable to increasingly harsh Western sanctions and with few allies.
According to Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, 2,500-3,000 Ukrainian troops have been killed so far, while up to 20,000 Russian troops have been slain.
Moscow has not provided any updates on its military casualties since March 25, when it stated that 1,351 people had perished. Western estimates of Russian losses are many times higher, but independent figures of Ukraine’s losses are scarce.
Ukraine claims that civilian deaths are impossible to count, estimating that tens of thousands have died in Mariupol alone.
A quarter of Ukrainians have been forced to flee their homes, with a tenth of the population fleeing overseas.
“Our military’s battlefield victories are truly momentous, historically significant.” However, they are insufficient to rid our land of the occupants. We shall do so beat them some more,” Zelenskiy said in a late-night video address on Friday.