Russia escalates airstrikes on Ukraine, killing at least 6 amid Kiev’s counterattack

Kiev, Ukraine (AFP) – Russian forces fired cruise missiles at the southern Ukrainian city of Odessa and bombed the eastern Donetsk region early Wednesday, killing at least six people and damaging dozens of homes, regional officials said.

A Ukrainian military spokesman said that Russian forces have recently intensified air strikes in their nearly 16-month-old war. Meanwhile, the country’s armed forces posted limited gains In the initial stages of a counter-offensive to retake nearly a fifth of Ukraine’s territory under Russian control.

Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar said on Wednesday that Ukraine’s grinding progress is slowly moving forward. Western military officials and analysts say that efforts to expel the entrenched, heavily armed and large numbers of Russian forces could take years.

Malyar claimed that Ukrainian forces had advanced 200–500 meters (650–1,600 ft) in various sections of the front line around the city of Bakhmut Donetsk and 300–350 meters (980–1,150 ft) into the southern region of Zaporizhia. It said that the Ukrainian forces managed to make gains despite the Russian superiority in artillery and air power and the large number of landmines left behind by the Russian forces. Malyar noted that since the start of the all-out Russian invasion, Ukraine’s battlefield losses have been “incomparably less” than those of the Russian forces.

It was not possible to verify the battlefield claims.

A Western official, who asked not to be identified discussing the intelligence, said Ukrainian forces can expect slow progress in what will be a “very tough” fight as the counter-offensive gains momentum.

“Heavy fighting is now continuing in almost all sectors of the front,” the official said. “This is much more than an investigation. These are large-scale movements of armor and heavy equipment in the Russian security zone.”

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The official described the Ukrainian attacks as systematic and said that overall, “Russian forces have put up a good defence.”

The regional administration said on Facebook that three food warehouse workers were killed in Odessa in a strike that destroyed homes, shops and cafes in the city centre. 13 others were wounded.

She added that search teams are looking for possible survivors under the rubble of the warehouse.

The administration said the attack on the port city, launched from the Black Sea, was the second in a week and involved four Caliber cruise missiles, three of which were intercepted by air defenses.

In eastern Ukraine, Donetsk Provincial Governor Pavlo Kirilenko wrote on Telegram that at least three people were killed after shelling destroyed seven homes and damaged dozens of others in the cities of Kramatorsk and Kostyantynivka.

Ten towns and villages along the front line in Donetsk have been targeted as Kiev forces slowly advance, according to Ukraine’s presidential office.

The presidential office said a missile hit the Ukrainian-controlled city of Kramatorsk, where Kiev forces are stationed, killing two civilians, injuring two others and damaging 29 homes. It added that the Russian bombing of Kostyantinivka killed a civilian and damaged 57 homes.

Andriy Kovalov, a spokesman for the General Staff of Ukraine’s armed forces, said the Russian military has increased missile and air strikes while Kievan forces are stepping up attacks along the 1,000-kilometre (600-mile) front line and announcing some modest gains at the start of the war. their counterattack.

He said in a briefing that the strikes on the Kharkiv, Donetsk and Kirovohrad regions, in addition to the Odessa region, included Kh-22 cruise missiles, Kalibr cruise missiles and Iranian-made drones. Nine were intercepted.

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Kovalov said Ukrainian forces had made progress in several sections and that fighting was continuing in or near at least two communities in Donetsk province.

Britain’s Ministry of Defense, which regularly issues updates on the conflict, wrote on Twitter that southern Ukraine “was often more allowed in by Russian air operations” than other parts of the front.

Separately, the mayor of Kryvyi Rih, the hometown of President Volodymyr Zelensky, said the death toll from the Russian strike that hit an apartment building the day before rose to 12.

Ukrainian authorities have continued to rescue people from flooded areas in the partly Russian-occupied southern Kherson region of Ukraine after the destruction of the Kakhovka Dam. last week.

Twenty-eight settlements on the western bank of the Dnieper River that Ukraine controls remain submerged, the presidential office said, and nearly 2,800 people have been moved to safety so far, adding that rescue efforts are taking place amid relentless Russian bombardment. Ukraine’s attorney general said that two volunteers were injured Wednesday in Russian bombing of the regional capital, also called Kherson, while trying to evacuate people.

The visit of the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Mariano Grossi, to the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant on Wednesday was postponed for security reasons.

He met with Zelensky on Tuesday to discuss the dangers facing the nuclear plant, which became even more serious after the Kakhovka Dam exploded last week.

The factory has been under fire repeatedly since Russia launched its war on Ukraine in February 2022 and seized the facility shortly after.

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The head of the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency told reporters in Kiev on Tuesday that Europe’s largest nuclear power plant was facing a “relatively serious situation”.

The presidential office said that Ukrainian-controlled areas in the Kherson region had been hit by artillery 57 times in the past 24 hours.

Rumors swirled on Wednesday about a relative and confidant of Chechnya’s powerful, Kremlin-backed leader, Ramzan Kadyrov. It was reported that MP Adam Delimkhanov was wounded – or even killed – in Ukraine.

And after the official Russian TV reported that the deputy had been injured, and the Ukrainian Telegram channels indicated that he had been killed, Kadyrov published a photo showing Delimkhanov.

In a photo caption, Kadyrov said Delimkhanov was “alive and well” – adding that he had known this “from the start”, although he had previously asked Ukrainian intelligence to provide information about bombed sites so he could locate “his brother”. Dear. “

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Jurass Karmano in Tallinn, Estonia, and Jill Lawless and Elise Morton in London contributed to this report.

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Follow AP coverage of the war in Ukraine: https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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