By Reuters: Russia said on Thursday it had repelled more cross-border attacks from Ukraine while its aerial assaults on Kyiv killed another three people including a nine-year-old girl and her mother locked out of an air raid shelter.
Both sides are trying to sap morale and weaken military capacity ahead of a long-promised Ukrainian counter-offensive against Russia’s 15-month-old invasion.
The general staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said Russia had launched 12 missile strikes on targets in Ukraine in the past 24 hours. Russia also mounted 36 air strikes on Ukrainian towns and villages, it said in a Facebook post.
The war has killed tens of thousands, shattered Ukrainian cities and brought increasing attacks on Russian soil.
Russia’s defence ministry said it had repelled three cross-border attacks near the town of Shebekino, and it accused Ukraine of using what it said were “terrorist formations”.
The Russian Volunteer Corps (RVC), a far-right paramilitary group of ethnic Russians that supports Ukraine, claimed to be fighting inside Russia.
“The second phase promised by the RVC’s commander has begun!” it said on Telegram, referring to a previous incursion, alongside images of fighters firing weapons.
Ukraine denies its military is involved in the incursions into Russia’s Belgorod border region and says they are conducted by Russian volunteer fighters.
The Belgorod region’s governor, Vyacheslav Gladkov, said Ukrainian armed forces had repeatedly shelled Shebekino with Soviet-designed Grad 122mm rockets, setting alight a dormitory and damaging an administrative building.
At least nine civilians were injured, he said, with hundreds of children, women and elderly being evacuated. Unverified video showed a fire at a large building in Shebekino.
Reuters could not independently verify accounts from either side.
Ukrainian authorities warned people across most of the country late on Thursday of possible Russian air raids.
AIR RAID SHELTER CLOSED
In Kyiv, Ukraine said it shot down 10 ballistic and Iskander cruise missiles in Russia’s 18th attack on the capital since the start of May. But a nine-year-old girl, her mother and another woman were killed when debris fell near an air raid shelter they had been trying to enter.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, in his nightly video message, said shelters “must be kept accessible. Never again should we see a repeat of the situation that occurred last night in Kyiv…”
Condemning the Kyiv deaths, the U.N. rights monitoring mission in Ukraine said six children were killed and 34 wounded in May alone, with 525 dying since Russia’s invasion.
Russia denies targeting civilians or committing war crimes but its forces have devastated Ukrainian cities and repeatedly hit residential areas.
President Vladimir Putin’s government claims to have annexed parts of east and south Ukraine in a “special military operation” to “denazify” its neighbour, protect Russian speakers and defend its borders from aggressive Western ambitions.
Kyiv and its Western allies accuse Putin of barbaric tactics and an imperialist-style land grab in Ukraine, which was long dominated by Russia within the Soviet Union before its break-up in 1991.
ZELENSKIY COURTS WORLD
Zelenskiy said on Thursday he had received a strong show of support from allies attending a European summit in Moldova on the question of supplying fighter jets to Kyiv to help repel Russian forces. He did not give details.
Zelenskiy is pressing for Ukraine to be part of the NATO military alliance – but members are divided over how fast that should happen. Western governments are wary of any move that might take the alliance closer to war with Russia.
“It is high time that we actually sit down and find a very concrete answer,” Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said.
Zelenskiy said Kyiv had not yet set a date for a proposed peace summit, because it was working to bring as many countries as possible to the table. Ukraine says only a full Russian withdrawal will end the war.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said its member nations had yet to work out details of how to guarantee Ukraine’s security in the future.
“When the war ends we must ensure we have a framework in place to ensure it is not a pause in Russian actions against Ukraine,” he said in Oslo. “We need to stop the vicious circle of aggression against Ukraine.”