Russian forces begin assault on 2 Eastern Ukraine cities, as rocket attacks continue

Ukrainian military and local officials said Russian forces began Saturday’s assault on two key cities in eastern Donetsk and continued their missile and artillery attack on the cities. other Ukrainian cities, including some near Europe’s largest nuclear power plant.

Both the cities of Bakhmut and Avdiivka are seen as prime targets in Russia’s continued offensive across eastern Ukraine, with analysts arguing that Moscow needs to capture Bakhmut if it wants to advance into regional centers such as Sloviansk and Kramatorsk.

“In the direction of Donetsk, the enemy is conducting an offensive operation, focusing its main efforts in the direction of Bakhmut and Avdiivka. It uses ground attack and ground forces,” the General Staff of Ukraine said on Facebook.

The last Russian assault on Sloviansk was on July 30, but Ukrainian forces are consolidating their positions around the city in anticipation of new skirmishes.

“I don’t think things will calm down for long. Eventually, there will be an attack,” Colonel Yurii Bereza, head of the volunteer national guard regiment, told The Associated Press.

Russian shelling has killed five civilians and wounded 14 others in the Donetsk region over the past day, Donetsk Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko wrote Saturday on Telegram, saying two people died in Poprosny and one each in Avdiivka, Soledar and Pervomaiskiy.

Injured civilians in Nikopol

The governor of the eastern region of Dnipropetrovsk said three civilians were injured after a Russian missile fell on a residential area in Nikopol, a city across the Dnieper River from the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.

The nuclear plant has been under Russian control since Moscow’s army seized it earlier in the war.

“After midnight, the Russian army attacked the Nikopol area with Grad missiles, and the Kryvyi Rih area from barrel cannons,” Valentyn Reznichenko wrote on Telegram.

Piles of grain are seen lying inside a damaged warehouse on Friday in the Zaporizhzhia region of Ukraine. The facility was damaged by a recent Russian missile attack. (Dmytro Smolienko / Reuters)

Another Russian missile attack overnight damaged unidentified infrastructure in the regional capital Zaporizhzhia. On Thursday, Russia fired 60 rockets at Nikopol, damaging 50 residential buildings in the city of 107,000 people and leaving residents without electricity.

Rafael Grossi, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, warned this week that the situation is becoming more dangerous by the day at the Zaporizhzhia plant.

He expressed concern about the way the plant is being run and the danger posed by fighting going on around it. Experts at the US-based Institute for the Study of War say they believe Russia is deliberately shelling the area, “putting Ukraine in a difficult position”.

The Ukrainian company that operates the nuclear power plant on Saturday said the Russian military was using the plant’s basement to hide from Ukrainian shelling and had banned Ukrainian employees from going there.

Enerhoatom, a Ukrainian state-owned enterprise, said on their Telegram channel: “Ukrainian employees have yet to gain access to these facilities, so in the event of fresh shelling, the people have no shelter and in danger”.

Enerhoatom said Friday that the Russian missile damaged plant facilities, including a nitrogen-oxygen unit and a high-voltage power line. Local officials appointed by Russia acknowledged the damage, but blamed the shelling believed to be Ukraine.

Strike Mykolaiv, Kharkiv

In southern Ukraine, two civilians were seriously injured Saturday after Russian forces fired rockets at the Black Sea port of Mykolaiv before dawn, according to regional authorities. This was followed by an attack Friday afternoon on Mykolaiv that left one person dead and 21 others injured.

In the Kherson region south of Mykolaiv, the deputy mayor of the Russian-occupied city of Nova Kakhovka is in critical condition following an assassination attempt, Russian state news agency RIA-Novosti said, citing deputy regional chief Kherson , most of which are under Russian control.

An official surveys the rubble Saturday of a furniture factory in Kharkiv, Ukraine, following a missile attack. (Image Sergey Bobok/AFP/Getty)

According to regional governor Oleh Syniehubov, in the north, Ukraine’s second largest city of Kharkiv and its surroundings were also hit by rockets again during the night. An 18-year-old man from Chuhuiv, a town near Kharkiv, was hospitalized Saturday after picking up an unexploded shell.

Both Chuhuiv and Kharkiv have come under constant Russian shelling in recent weeks, due to their proximity to the Russian border.

The vicinity of Sumy, which also borders Russia, has also seen near-constant artillery and missile attacks. Its regional governor said on Saturday the province had been attacked more than 60 times from Russian territory the day before, and one civilian was injured and hospitalized.

In terms of ammunition, Russia has begun using Iranian combat drones in the war, Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said in a YouTube speech, adding that Tehran has moved delivered 46 drones to the Russian military.

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