Russian forces launched an offensive on Saturday on two major cities in the eastern Donetsk region and continued missile attacks and shelling on other Ukrainian cities, including one close to Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, military and local officials in Ukraine said.
The cities of Bakhmut and Avdiivka are prime targets of Russia’s ongoing offensive across eastern Ukraine, with analysts saying Moscow needs to control Bakhmut if it is to advance on the regional hubs of Sloviansk and Kramatorsk.
“In the direction of Donetsk, the enemy is conducting an offensive operation, concentrating its main efforts on the Bakhmut and Avdiivka directions. It uses a ground offensive and army aviation,” the Ukrainian General Staff said on Facebook.
The last Russian strike on Slovinsk was on July 30, but Ukrainian forces fortified their positions around the city pending fresh fighting.
“I think the situation will not be calm for long. Ultimately, there will be an offensive,” Colonel Yuri Beriza, head of the National Guard Volunteer Regiment, told The Associated Press.
Russian bombing killed five civilians and wounded 14 others in Donetsk region On the last day, Donetsk Governor Pavlo Kirilenko wrote on Saturday in a telegram, saying that two people were killed in Bobrosny, and one each in Avdiivka, Solidar and Pervomaisky.
The governor of the eastern Dnipropetrovsk region said that three civilians were injured after Russian missiles hit a residential neighborhood in the city of Nikopol on the Dnieper River.. The nuclear plant has been under Russian control since it was captured by Russian forces early in the war.
“After midnight, the Russian army hit the Nikopol region with Grad missiles (from Soviet times), and the Kryvyi Rih region with artillery shells,” Valentin Reznichenko wrote in Telegram.
The Ukrainian state company Enerhoatom said, on Friday, that Russian missiles damaged the plant’s facilities, including the nitrogen and oxygen unit and a high-voltage power line. Russian-appointed local officials admitted the damage, but blamed the Ukrainians.
Another Russian missile attack during the night destroyed unspecified infrastructure in the regional capital of Zaporizhia. On Thursday, Russia fired 60 missiles at Nikopol, which damaged 50 apartment buildings in the city, which has a population of 107,000, and left residents without electricity.
Rafael Grossi, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, warned this week that the situation at the Zaporizhzhya plant is becoming more and more dangerous by the day.
“Every principle of nuclear safety has been violated” at the plant, he said. “What is at stake is very dangerous.”
He expressed his concern about the way the factory is operated and the danger posed by the fighting around it. Experts at the US-based Institute for the Study of War said Russia was deliberately bombing the region, “putting Ukraine in a difficult situation”.
The Ukrainian nuclear power plant operator said on Saturday that Russian forces are using the basement of the plant to hide from Ukrainian shelling and have prevented its Ukrainian employees from going there.
“Ukrainian personnel have not yet been able to reach these buildings, so in the event of a new bombing, people have no shelter and they are in danger,” Enerhuatum said on her Telegram channel.