Russia bombards southern Ukraine amid speculation of counter-attack in region | CBC News

Russia bombards southern Ukraine amid speculation of counter-attack in region | CBC News

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Russia targeted Ukraine’s southern Black Sea regions of Odesa and Mykolaiv with air strikes Tuesday, hitting private buildings and port infrastructure with missiles fired from long-range bomber aircraft, the Ukrainian military said.

In the Odesa region, buildings in coastal villages were hit and caught fire, Ukraine’s Operational Command South said on Facebook. In the Mykolaiv region, port infrastructure was targeted despite agreements intended to allow grain shipments to resume from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports.

Hours after the strikes, a Moscow-installed official in southern Ukraine said the Odesa and Mykolaiv regions will soon be “liberated” by Russian forces, just like the already-occupied Kherson region further east.

“The Kherson region and the city of Kherson have been liberated forever,” Russian state-owned news agency RIA Novosti quoted the region’s Moscow-appointed official, Kirill Stremousov, as saying.

A local resident walks among the remains of residential buildings destroyed by a Russian missile strike in the settlement of Zatoka, in Ukraine’s Odesa region, on Tuesday. Buildings in coastal villages were hit by Russian missiles and caught fire, said Ukraine’s Operational Command South. (Igor Tkachenko/Reuters)

While Ukrainian officials have spoken of a possible counteroffensive in the south, the British Defence Ministry said Tuesday there was no indication a Ukrainian warship and a stockpile of anti-ship missiles were docked at Odesa’s port, as Moscow claimed when it struck the site over the weekend.

The British ministry said Russia sees Ukraine’s use of anti-ship missiles as “a key threat” that is limiting its Black Sea fleet.

“This has significantly undermined the overall invasion plan, as Russia cannot realistically attempt an amphibious assault to seize Odesa,” the military said. “Russia will continue to prioritize efforts to degrade and destroy Ukraine’s anti-ship capability.”

It added that “Russia’s targeting processes are highly likely routinely undermined by dated intelligence, poor planning, and a top-down approach to operations.”

‘Not a single safe place left’ in Donetsk

In other military developments, Russian shelling over the previous 24 hours killed at least three civilians and wounded eight more in Ukraine, Ukraine’s presidential office said Tuesday.

In the eastern Donetsk region, where the fighting has been focused in recent weeks, the shelling continued along the entire front line, with Russian forces targeting some of the region’s largest cities, Bakhmut, Avdiivka and Toretsk, the presidential office said.

Donetsk Regional Gov. Pavlo Kyrylenko accused Russian troops of using cluster munitions and repeated his call for civilians to evacuate.

“There is not a single safe place left, everything is being shelled,” Kyrylenko said in televised remarks. “But there are still evacuation routes for the civilian population.”

The Institute for the Study of War, a think tank based in Washington, D.C., reported that the Russians are using mercenaries from the shadowy Wagner Group to capture the Vuhledar Power Plant on the northern outskirts of the village of Novoluhanske in the Bakhmut region.

A Ukrainian solider is seen inside a tank in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region on Tuesday. (Anatolii Stepanov/AFP/Getty Images)

But the Russian forces have made “limited gains” there, according to Ukraine’s General Staff.

The main Russian focus has been on capturing Bakhmut, which the Russian military needs to press its offensive on the main Ukrainian strongholds in Donetsk, the cities of Sloviansk and Kramatorsk.

“Russian forces made marginal gains south of Bakhmut but are unlikely to be able to effectively leverage these advances to take full control of Bakhmut itself,” the Institute for the Study of War said.

‘Everything is being fired at’ in Kharkiv

Russian forces continued to launch strikes on civilian infrastructure in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, and the surrounding region in the country’s northeast.

Kharkiv Gov. Oleh Synyehubov said the strikes on the city resumed around dawn Tuesday and damaged a car dealership.

“The Russians deliberately target civilian infrastructure objects — hospitals, schools, movie theatres,” Synyehubov told Ukrainian television. “Everything is being fired at, even queues for humanitarian aid, so we’re urging people to avoid mass gatherings.”

Stalled diplomacy

On the diplomatic front, Russia’s top diplomat repeated his insistence that Moscow was ready to hold talks with Ukraine on ending the war, though he once again claimed that Kyiv’s Western allies oppose a deal.

“We never refused to have talks, because everybody knows that any hostilities end at the negotiating table,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Tuesday during a trip to Uganda.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attends a news conference following talks with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni in Entebbe, Uganda, on Tuesday. (Russian Foreign Ministry/Reuters)

He also said that negotiations have gone no further since a meeting between the two sides in Istanbul at the end of March.

Responding to Lavrov’s comment Monday that Moscow’s overarching goal in Ukraine is to free its people from its “unacceptable regime,” German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said that Moscow wants “the complete subjugation of Ukraine and its people.”

“We must be prepared for this war — which Russia is conducting with absolute brutality, and is conducting in a way that no one else would — to last months,” Baerbock said during a visit to Prague.

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