At least 8 people are killed in Russia’s latest attacks
By Matthew Mpoke Bigg
Russian strikes killed at least eight people in eastern Ukraine in the past 24 hours and the death toll from an apartment complex hit by Russian rockets grew, local officials said Monday, as civilians bore the brunt of Moscow’s latest attacks despite what military analysts say is a lull in its drive to seize territory.
Shelling and missile barrages, which seem to be striking almost at random, have ramped up in particular in Donetsk, an eastern province increasingly in Moscow’s crosshairs after Russian forces seized the last major city in neighboring Luhansk province this month.
The toll from a strike on the apartment complex in the Donetsk village of Chasiv Yar late Saturday rose to 30, the Ukrainian State Emergency Service said Monday on the Telegram messaging app. Nine people had been pulled from the rubble and rescued so far, it said.
Ukraine’s police force said Monday that missiles had struck at least 10 urban centers in Donetsk province in the past 24 hours. Two people were killed, bringing the civilian death toll in the province since Russia invaded the country in late February to nearly 600, said the region’s military governor, Pavlo Kyrylenko.
Six people were killed and 31 more were wounded in northeastern Ukraine, local officials said.
“Only civilian structures — a shopping center and houses of peaceful Kharkiv residents — came under the fire of the Russians,” the head of the Kharkiv regional administration, Oleh Sinehubov, said on Telegram.
At about 3:40 a.m. Monday, a Russian missile destroyed a school building in the Slobidske district of the city of Kharkiv, although no one was hurt, Sinehubov said. He said a six-story apartment building in the city was hit 20 minutes later. Emergency workers rescued an 86-year-old woman from the rubble.
Explosions also rang out early Monday in the southern city of Mykolaiv, Ukrainian officials said. At least one person was wounded in a missile strike, the head of the regional military administration, Vitaliy Kim, said on Telegram.
Russia is engaged in a “theaterwide operational pause,” the Institute for the Study of War, a research group based in Washington, said in a report Monday, a view held by several military analysts. A British intelligence report Monday said that “shelling continued in northern Donbas without any major territorial advances.”
Many civilians have fled Donetsk province, but for those who remain, Russia’s pause in a concerted attempt to take fresh territory offers little comfort.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy mocked the notion in an overnight speech: “Many talked about the alleged ‘operational pause’ in the actions of the occupiers in Donbas and other parts of Ukraine. Thirty-four airstrikes by Russian aircraft over the past day is an answer to all those who came up with this ‘pause.’”
The attacks of recent days appear to differ from the concerted onslaught that Russian forces launched before its assault on cities in Luhansk in June and July. Then, Moscow used artillery to pound particular cities or, often, single neighborhoods relentlessly; only after weeks of shelling that left whole neighborhoods in ruins did it send in ground forces.
The latest attacks took place in the three main theaters of conflict that have evolved since Russian President Vladimir Putin’s forces failed in their attempt to seize Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv.
In 2014, Russian forces and separatists loyal to Moscow seized the Crimea region and territory in the Donbas — the region containing the provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk. They set up breakaway republics in both of those provinces, and, in total, they now control about one-fifth of Ukraine. With the exception of Luhansk, however, where Russian forces seized the last holdout city this month, little land has changed hands in recent weeks.