KYIV, Ukraine — Russia launched a massive air assault on targets across Ukraine on Monday, its second large-scale offensive in three days, as fighting appeared to intensify ahead of an expected Ukrainian counterattack.
Explosions echoed over the Ukrainian capital Kiev and other parts of the country before dawn as Ukrainian air defenses shot down 15 out of 18 Russian cruise missiles, according to the Ukrainian military. The warning in the capital lasted for about three hours, until the authorities said that “all hostile missiles and drones were destroyed in the airspace of Kiev.”
There were no initial reports of civilian casualties in the missile barrage, which came as Ukrainian forces stepped up efforts to strike Russian targets behind the front lines ahead of an expected campaign to retake lost territory backed by powerful weapons newly delivered from Western allies. .
Hours earlier, Russian strikes in the central Ukrainian city of Pavlograd sparked a huge fire that lit up the night sky. Russian pro-war military bloggers, who follow the fighting closely, indicated that the strike targeted Ukrainian air defense systems, but did not provide evidence for this claim.
At least 34 people, including three children, were injured in the attack, according to Serhiy Lesk, governor of the Dnipropetrovsk region, which includes Pavlograd. He said dozens of buildings, including schools and homes, were damaged. His office posted photos of the fallout, which showed widespread wreckage.
Both sides have reported an upsurge in attacks in recent days. Russia continued its bombardment of Ukrainian towns and villages along the front line over the weekend, while a series of explosions occurred deep inside the Russian lines. The wave of strikes may signal the beginning of a turn in a conflict that has settled for months into a grinding war of attrition, in which tens of thousands of soldiers have been killed or wounded in fierce fighting across eastern Ukraine, but neither side holds territory.
Across northern, eastern and southern Ukraine, regional authorities reported 24-hour artillery, mortar, missile or Russian drone strikes in 11 districts, killing at least three people and destroying more than a hundred apartment buildings. Ukrainian officials said Russian forces bombed the Kherson region of southern Ukraine 39 times on Sunday, killing at least one civilian and wounding several others.
On Saturday, an explosion hit an oil depot in Sevastopol, headquarters of the Russian Navy’s Black Sea Fleet in occupied Crimea. Ukraine’s Southern Command spokeswoman, Natalia Homenyuk, said the warehouse fire was part of preparations for the “large-scale offensive that everyone expects” in Ukraine soon.
The Ukrainian military said Monday morning that it had launched four strikes on concentrations of hostile forces in the past 24 hours, but gave no details. The exiled mayor of Melitopol, Ivan Fedorov, said residents living near a Russian airport in the occupied southern city of Berdyansk reported “explosions that could be heard in different parts of the city”.
While Russia continues to attempt attacks in and around devastated towns and cities in eastern Ukraine, it has moved to defensive positions in the south, according to Ukrainian and Western officials.
Britain’s Defense Intelligence Agency said on Monday that Russian forces have “constructed some of the most comprehensive military defense systems seen anywhere in the world for many decades” not only close to the front line but also “deep in areas currently controlled by Russia”. in twitter mailThe agency said the vast network highlights “Russian leaders’ deep concern that Ukraine could make a major breakthrough.”
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