September 27, 2022

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) – Russian forces launched an offensive Saturday on two key towns in the eastern Donetsk region and continued their rocket and shelling attacks on other Ukrainian cities, including one near Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, its military said. Ukrainian and local officials. .

Both the towns of Bakhmut and Avdiivka are seen as key targets in Russia’s ongoing offensive in eastern Ukraine, with analysts saying Moscow must take 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 directions of Bakhmut and Avdiivka. It uses ground attack and military aviation,” the Ukrainian General Staff said on Facebook.

The last Russian strike on Sloviansk was on July 30, but Ukrainian forces are fortifying their positions around the city in anticipation of further fighting.

“I think it won’t be quiet for long. Eventually, there will be an attack,” Colonel Yuriy Bereza, head of the volunteer national guard regiment, told The Associated Press.

Russian shelling has killed five civilians and wounded 14 others in the Donetsk region in the last day, Donetsk Governor Pavlo Kyrilenko wrote on Telegram on Saturday, saying two people were killed in Poprosny and one each in Avdiivka, Soledar and Pervomaiskiy.

The governor of the eastern Dnipropetrovsk region said three civilians were injured when Russian rockets landed in a residential neighborhood in Nikopol, a city across the Dnieper River from the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. The nuclear plant has been under Russian control since Moscow’s troops seized it early in the war.

“After midnight, the Russian army struck the area of ​​Nikopolis [Soviet-era] Grad rockets and the Kryvyi Rih region from barrel artillery,” wrote Valentyn Reznichenko on Telegram.

Another Russian missile attack overnight destroyed unspecified infrastructure in the regional capital of Zaporizhia. On Thursday, Russia fired 60 rockets into Nikopoli, damaging 50 residential buildings in the city of 107,000 and leaving residents without power.

Rafael Grossi, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, warned this week that the situation was becoming more dangerous by the day at the Zaporizhia plant.

“Every principle of nuclear safety has been violated” at the plant, he said. “What is at stake is extremely serious.”

He expressed his concern about the way the factory was operating and the danger posed by the fighting around it. Experts at the US-based Institute for the Study of War said Russia was bombing the region deliberately, “putting Ukraine in a difficult position”.

The Ukrainian company that operates the nuclear plant said on Saturday that Russian troops are using the plant’s basement to hide from Ukrainian shelling and have barred its Ukrainian staff from going there.

“Ukrainian personnel still do not have access to these facilities, so in case of new shelling, people have no shelter and are at risk,” Enerhoatom, a Ukrainian state-owned enterprise, said on its Telegram channel.

Enerhoatom said on Friday that Russian missiles damaged facilities at the plant, including a nitrogen-oxygen unit and a high-voltage power line. Local Russian-appointed officials acknowledged the damage but blamed the Ukrainians.

In other developments:

  • In southern Ukraine, two civilians were seriously injured on Saturday when Russian forces fired rockets into the Black Sea port of Mykolaiv before dawn, regional authorities said. This followed Friday afternoon’s attack in Mykolaiv that killed one person and injured 21 others.
  • In the Kherson region south of Mykolaiv, the deputy mayor of the Russian-held town of Nova Kakhovka was in critical condition after an assassination attempt, Russian state news agency RIA-Novosti reported, citing the Kherson region’s vice president. which is under Russian control.
  • __The first of three more ships carrying thousands of tonnes of corn from Ukraine docked north of Istanbul on Saturday awaiting inspection, the Turkish Defense Ministry said. The Panamanian-flagged Navi Star, carrying 33,000 tonnes of grain to Ireland, left Odessa on Friday. They are followed by the Turkish-flagged Polarnet and the Maltese-flagged Rojen, carrying between them over 25,000 tonnes of corn from Chornomorsk. The joint inspection center was created to transport to the world grain blocked in Ukraine since the war. On Friday, the center inspected its first northbound ship as it headed for Chornomorsk.
  • In the north, Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, and the surrounding area also came under Russian rocket fire again overnight, according to regional governor Oleh Syniehubov. An 18-year-old man in Chuhuiv, a town near Kharkiv, had to be hospitalized on Saturday after picking up an unexploded shell. Both Chuhuiv and Kharkiv are close to the Russian border and have come under constant Russian shelling in recent weeks.
  • The neighboring region of Sumy, which also borders Russia, has also seen near-constant shelling and rocket attacks. Its governor said on Saturday that the area had been hit more than 60 times by Russian territory in the previous day, and an injured civilian had to be treated.
  • On the munitions front, Russia has begun using Iranian fighter drones in the war, Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said in a YouTube post, adding that Tehran has transferred 46 drones to the Russian military.

Joanna Kozlowska contributed from London

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