Russian forces continue rocket attacks on Ukraine’s second largest city, Kharkiv, and its surrounding landscape, killing at least 20 people in what Kyiv called an attempt to force the country to withdraw resources from the main battlefield to protect civilians from attack.
- Russian forces have renewed their efforts to target the northeastern city of Kharkiv, killing dozens in shelling attacks
- Ukrainian reinforcements crossed a river into the besieged city of Sievierodonetsk earlier this week
- Ukraine and Russia marked “Day of Remembrance and Sorrow”, the anniversary of the day Hitler’s Germany attacked the Soviet Union
Inside Russia, a fire broke out through an oil refinery just 8 km from the Ukrainian border, after what the refinery described as a cross-border attack by two drones.
In the largest battlefield city of Sievierodonetsk, where Russia has claimed to have Ukrainian forces surrounded since last week, scenes filmed by a freelance journalist made it clear that the battle was not over, with Ukrainian troops able to supply their garrison by crossing a river in inflatable rafts.
The Russian attacks on Kharkiv – all Tuesday and continuing until Wednesday morning – were the worst in weeks in the area where normal life had returned since Ukraine pushed Russian forces back in a major counter-offensive last month.
“It was shelling Russian troops. It was probably more rocket fire. And that’s the missile hit, that’s the whole missile hit,” Kharkiv prosecutor Mikhailo Martosh told Reuters amid the ruins of huts hit Tuesday in a rural area on the outskirts of the city.
World War II survivor killed by shelling
Medical personnel carried the body of an elderly woman out of the rubble of a burned-out garage and into a nearby van.
“There is nowhere to flee to. Especially Grandma herself, she would not go anywhere from here.”
Ukrainian authorities said 15 people were killed and 16 wounded on Tuesday in the Kharkiv region, and Regional Governor Oleh Sinegubov described shelling incidents on Wednesday morning that had killed at least five more people.
“And if they keep doing that, we’ll have to respond – and that’s a way to get us to move our artillery,” he said.
“The idea is to create one big problem to distract us and force us to redirect troops. I think there will be an escalation.”
In a military update in the evening, Ukraine’s General Staff cataloged the continued heavy Russian shelling of Kharkiv and other towns and villages in its vicinity and airstrikes on, among others, the devastated city of Sievierodonetsk.
Russian forces have only made slow progress using overwhelming artillery in some of the heaviest ground battles in Europe since World War II.
Moscow says Ukrainian forces in Sievierodonetsk have been captured and ordered them to surrender or die last week after the last bridge over the Siverskyi Donets River was destroyed.
However, Oleksandr Ratushniak, a freelance photographer who reached Sievierodonetsk with Ukrainian forces in recent days, filmed reinforcements crossing in an inflatable raft.
Inside the ruins of the front line industrial zone, the Ukrainian troops fired from a tank’s main pistol. They smoked cigarettes while hiding from Russian artillery that exploded outside.
An ordinary day’s work, a soldier said, “To us it’s like digging up potatoes.”
Drone attacks reported on Russian oil plant
There was no immediate Ukrainian comment on the apparent drone strike that suspended production at Russia’s oil refinery in Novoshakhtinsk on the Russian side of the border with Donbas territory controlled by pro – Russian separatists.
Video footage posted on social media appeared to show a drone flying towards the refinery before a large fireball billowed up into the summer sky.
The local emergency service, quoted by Interfax, said no one was injured and the fire was extinguished.
Ukraine generally does not comment on reports of attacks on Russian infrastructure near the border, as it has previously called “karma” for Russian attacks on Ukraine.
In a separate incident, Russian authorities said four people were killed after a grenade exploded at an ammunition depot deep inside Russia.
In southern Ukraine, officials said seven Russian missiles had hit the port of Mykolaiv, killing at least one person and causing several major fires.
Global grain trader Viterra said its grain terminal in the southern Ukrainian port of Mykolaiv was hit and set on fire.
Ukraine and Russia mark the day of remembrance and mourning
Wednesday was marked in both Russia and Ukraine as “Day of Remembrance and Sorrow,” the anniversary of the day Hitler’s Germany attacked the Soviet Union.
Russian President Vladimir Putin laid flowers at a memorial flame for the dead.
World War II – in which 27 million Soviet citizens were killed – plays a prominent role in Russian comments on the Ukraine invasion, which Mr Putin calls a “special operation” to exterminate “Nazis”.
Kyiv and the West call it an unfounded justification for a war to wipe out Ukraine’s identity as a separate nation.
“The psychiatrists of the future will examine how Russia, after building the World War II cult for years, began to recreate bloody sides of history and the Nazis’ every step,” tweeted Ukrainian Presidential Adviser Mykhailo Podolyak.
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