Russia is intensifying its campaign to seize a key city in Ukraine as the war nears its six-month end


Russian forces stepped up their fight to capture one of the dwindling cities in the contested east Ukraine not already under their control as they continue to fire on towns and villages in the north and south of the country, Ukrainian officials said on Saturday. Russian shelling collapsed balconies and blew out windows in the southern region of Mykolaiv, injuring at least nine civilians, authorities said.

A five-story apartment building and private houses in the city of Voznesensk were badly damaged, the governor of the Black Sea region said.

“As of 1:30 p.m. (local time) – nine wounded, including four children. All children in serious condition. The ages range from 3 to 17 years old,” Governor Vitaliy Kim wrote in a Telegram post. He added that a young girl lost an eye in Saturday’s attack.

Meanwhile there was hope for a possible diplomatic breakthrough with the embattled states Zaporizhia nuclear power plant, reports CBS News senior foreign correspondent Charlie D’Agata. Russia and Ukraine have agreed to allow inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency access to the complex.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he was grateful but cautious.

A rescuer helps a woman evacuate from a residential building damaged by a missile attack amid Russia's attack on Ukraine in Voznesensk, Ukraine August 20, 2022.
A rescuer helps a woman evacuate from a residential building damaged by a missile attack amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine in Voznesensk, Ukraine August 20, 2022.

Press Service of the State Emergency Service of Ukraine/Handout via REUTERS

A Ukrainian airstrike has hit targets in the largest Russian-held city in the southern Zaporizhia region, according to Ukrainian and Kremlin-backed local officials, reflecting the widening frontlines of Ukraine’s nearly six-month war.

Ukraine’s mayor of Melitopol said preliminary reports pointed to “a precise hit” on a Russian military base. The head of the Kremlin-backed administration said the attack damaged residential areas and slightly injured a civilian.

In its daily update, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said intensified fighting was taking place around Bakhmut, a small town whose capture would allow Russia to threaten the two largest remaining Ukrainian-held urban centers in the eastern Donbass region.

Bakhmut has been a key target of Moscow’s eastern offensive for weeks as the Russian military tries to complete a months-long campaign to seize all of Donbass, an industrial region bordering Russia where pro-Moscow separatists have self-declared two independent republics.

Burnt out cars are seen near Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine as Russia's assault on the country continues on August 20, 2022.
Burnt out cars are seen near Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine as Russia’s assault on the country continues on August 20, 2022.

Reuters/Ammar Awad

A local Ukrainian official on Saturday morning reported ongoing fighting near four settlements on the border between Luhansk and Donetsk provinces, which together make up the contested region.

Luhansk Governor Serhii Haidai did not name the settlements, nor did he mention Bakhmut, which is about 16 miles from the border between the two provinces. Russian forces overran most of Luhansk last month and have since focused on capturing the Ukrainian-held areas of Donetsk.

Russian shelling killed seven civilians in Donetsk province on Friday, including four in Bakhmut, Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko wrote on Telegram on Saturday. Taking Bakhmut would give the Russians room to advance into the province’s main Ukrainian cities, Kramatorsk and Sloviansk.

Sloviansk and Kramatorsk, as well as the northern Kharkiv region, home to Ukraine’s second-largest city, were also targeted on Friday, according to the General Staff update.

Neither Moscow nor Kyiv commented on the airstrike on Russian-held Melitopol in southern Ukraine. Early Saturday morning, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov claimed that pro-Russian forces fired Ukrainian shells near the city, as well as near a key power plant in the Kherson region that the Russians seized earlier in the war.

The head of the Kremlin-appointed administration in Melitopol confirmed on Saturday that the city had come under Ukrainian shelling.

“During the night, the Kiev regime launched two attacks on our beautiful Melitopol, on residential areas of the city. Russian air defense systems shot down missiles, but as a result of the shelling, the houses of residents in (two) streets were partially destroyed and damaged,” Galina Danilchenko said on Telegram.

Ukrainian Mayor of Melitopol Ivan Ferodov said local Ukrainian authorities were collecting information about the strike.

“Tonight there were huge explosions in Melitopol, which the whole city heard,” Ferodov said. “According to preliminary data, it was (it was) a precise hit on one of the Russian military bases, which the Russian fascists want to restore on the airfield site for the umpteenth time.”

Shortly after Dalnichenko’s post, Ferodov reported that residential areas in the city had been hit, but he blamed the strike on Moscow-backed forces stationed in Melitopol, which destroyed about 10 houses. He also reiterated his earlier claim that a Ukrainian airstrike severely damaged a Russian military base.

The Ukrainian governor of the partially Russian-controlled southern region of Zaporizhia, where Melitopol is located, said late Friday evening that a child was seriously injured by Russian shelling that day on the outskirts of the regional capital.

The governor, Oleksandr Starukh, said on Telegram that the 8-year-old girl remained on a ventilator after the operation, but is in “stable” condition. Starch added that the same attack left two adult civilians with “moderate injuries” in the city of Zaporizhia.

Ukrainian officials have hinted at plans for a counter-offensive to retake the occupied territories in the south of the country, while Russia is mainly focused on the east.

Local authorities reported renewed Russian shelling overnight along a broad front, including the northern regions of Kharkiv and Sumy, which border Russia, and the eastern regions of Dnipropetrovsk and Mykolayiv.

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