Russian forces launched an attack on two key cities in the eastern region of Donetsk on Saturday and continued rocket and shelling attacks on other Ukrainian cities, including one near Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, Ukrainian military and local officials said.
Both towns of Bakhmut and Avdiivka have been considered key targets of Russia’s ongoing offensive in eastern Ukraine, with analysts saying Moscow must capture Bakhmut if it wants to advance towards the regional hubs of Sloviansk and Kramatorsk.
“Towards Donetsk, the enemy is conducting an offensive operation, concentrating its main efforts on the Bakhmut and Avdiivka directions. It uses ground attacks and army aviation,” the Ukrainian General Staff said on Facebook.
The last Russian attack on Sloviansk was on July 30, but Ukrainian forces are fortifying their positions around the city in anticipation of new fighting.
“I don’t think it will be calm for long. Eventually there will be an attack,” Colonel Yurii Bereza, head of the National Guard’s voluntary regiment, told The Associated Press.
Russian shelling has killed five civilians and injured 14 others in the Donetsk region in the past day, Donetsk governor Pavlo Kyrylenko wrote on Telegram on Saturday, saying two people were killed in Poprosny, and one in Avdiivka, Soledar and Pervomaiskiy. .
The governor of the eastern Dnipropetrovsk region said three civilians were injured after Russian missiles fell on a residential area in Nikopol, a town across the Dnieper River. of the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant. The nuclear power plant has been under Russian control since Moscow’s troops captured it early in the war.
“After midnight, the Russian army attacked the Nikopol area with (Soviet era) Grad missiles and the Kryvyi Rih area with barrel artillery,” Valentyn Reznichenko wrote on Telegram.
Enerhoatom, a Ukrainian state-owned company, said on Friday that Russian missiles had damaged the plant’s facilities, including a nitrogen-oxygen unit and a power line. Local officials appointed by Russia acknowledged the damage but blamed the Ukrainians.
Another Russian missile strike damaged unspecified infrastructure in the regional capital Zaporizhzhya overnight. On Thursday, Russia fired 60 rockets at Nikopol, damaging 50 residential buildings in the city of 107,000 and leaving residents without electricity.
Rafael Grossi, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, warned this week that the situation at the Zaporizhzhya plant is getting more dangerous by the day.
“Every principle of nuclear safety has been violated” at the plant, he said. “What is at stake is extremely serious.”
He expressed concern about the way the factory is being operated and about the danger of the fighting around it. Experts from the US-based Institute for the Study of War said Russia is deliberately shelling the area, “putting Ukraine in a difficult position”.
The Ukrainian company that operates the nuclear power plant said on Saturday that Russian troops are using the factory’s basement to hide from Ukrainian shelling and have denied entry to their Ukrainian personnel.
“Ukrainian personnel do not yet have access to these buildings, so in case of new shelling, people have no shelter and are in danger,” Enerhoatom said on its Telegram channel.