© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Smoke rises after a missile strike as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues in Kyiv, Ukraine, June 26, 2022. REUTERS/Anna Voitenko
Tom Bamforth and Max Hender
Kyiv (Reuters) – Russia said on Saturday its forces would step up military operations in Ukraine “in all areas of operations” as Moscow rockets and missiles hit the city, which Kyiv said had killed dozens of people in recent days.
Rockets hit the northeastern town of Chukhuf in the Kharkiv region overnight, killing three people, including a 70-year-old woman, and injuring three others, regional governor Ole Sinihubov said.
“Three people lost their lives, why? Why? Because Putin is crazy?” said Raisa Shapoval, 83, a distraught resident sitting in the rubble of her home.
In the south, more than 50 Russian graduate rockets hit the city of Nikopol on the Dnieper River, killing two people in the rubble, the regional governor Valentin Reznichenko said.
Ukraine says at least 40 people have been killed in such attacks on urban areas over the past three days. Russia says it has been hitting military targets.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu ordered military units to step up operations to prevent Ukrainian attacks on eastern Ukraine and other areas under Russian control, saying Kyiv could attack civilian infrastructure or residents.
Shoigu, a close ally of President Vladimir Putin, appeared at the command post of the Defense Ministry’s Zvezda TV channel in military uniform, was briefed on the war and presented two generals with the “Gold Star” medal for heroism.
His remarks appeared to be a direct response to what Kyiv said was a series of successful attacks on 30 Russian logistics and munitions centers using several of the multiple rocket systems recently supplied by the West.
A spokesman for Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said on Friday that the airstrikes were wreaking havoc on Russia’s supply lines and significantly weakening Russia’s offensive capabilities.
war of attrition
While the focus of the war has shifted to the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, Russian troops have been attacking cities elsewhere in the country with missiles and rockets in what has become an increasingly consuming conflict.
Moscow launched what it called a “special military operation” against Ukraine on February 24, saying it used high-precision weapons to weaken Ukraine’s military infrastructure and protect its own security. It has repeatedly denied targeting civilians.
Kyiv and the West say the conflict is an unprovoked attempt to reconquer a country freed from Moscow’s rule after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
In the latest attack that has drawn the ire of Ukraine and its Western allies, Kalibr cruise missiles hit an office building in Vinnitsa, a city of 370,000 about 200 kilometers (125 miles) southwest of Kyiv, on Thursday. .
Kyiv said the strike killed at least 23 people and injured dozens more. Among the dead was a 4-year-old girl named Lisa, who had Down syndrome and was found in the wreckage next to the stroller. Photos of her playing shortly before the attack went viral.
The Russian Defense Ministry said the attack on Vinnitsa was aimed at a building where senior Ukrainian armed forces officials were meeting with foreign arms suppliers.
Russian missiles hit about 120 kilometers (75 miles) north of Nikopol late Friday, Governor Reznichenko of the Dnipropetrovsk region, which includes the two cities, said on Telegram. The city of Dnipro left three dead and 15 injured, adding that industrial plants and a busy street next to it were hit.
“When the shock wave hit, there was little debris because all my windows were covered with tape,” a local woman who identified herself as Klavdia told Reuters.
“I had a little injury on the left side of my body, but the people with the windows that weren’t protected like that, there was a lot of blood, and their injuries were horrible. I saw a kid with blood all over his body, it was horrible.”
Russia said it had destroyed a factory in Dnipro that made missile components.
Conflict differences G20
The war dominated a meeting of G20 finance ministers in Indonesia. U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said disagreements over the conflict had prevented Treasury and central bankers from issuing a formal communiqué, but they agreed on the need to address the worsening food security crisis.
“This is a challenging time because Russia is part of the G20 and disagrees with the rest of us on how to characterize this war,” Yellen said.
Western countries have imposed tough sanctions on Russia and accused it of committing war crimes in Ukraine, which Moscow denies. Other G20 countries, including China, India and South Africa, responded more modestly.
In one spillover effect of the conflict, a blockade restricting Ukrainian grain exports has sparked warnings that it could put millions of people in poorer countries at risk of starvation.
Despite the bloodshed, both Russia and Ukraine have described progress in reaching an agreement to lift the blockade in recent talks. A Turkish mediator said a deal could be signed next week.