Russian forces have launched a missile attack on the Kyiv area for the first time in weeks and pounded the northern Chernihiv region as well, in what Ukraine said was revenge for standing up to the Kremlin.
Ukrainian officials, meanwhile, announced a counteroffensive to take back the occupied Kherson region in the country’s south, territory seized by Russian forces early in the war.
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Russia attacked the Kyiv region with six missiles launched from the Black Sea, hitting a military unit in the village of Liutizh on the outskirts of the capital, according to Oleksii Hromov, a senior official with Ukraine’s General Staff.
He said that the attack ruined one building and damaged two others, and that Ukrainian forces also shot down one of the missiles in the town of Bucha.
Fifteen people were wounded in the Russian attacks, five of them civilians, Kyiv regional governor Oleksiy Kuleba said.
Kuleba linked the assaults to the Day of Statehood, a commemoration that President Volodymyr Zelenskyy instituted last year and Ukraine marked on Thursday.
“Russia, with the help of missiles, is mounting revenge for the widespread popular resistance, which the Ukrainians were able to organise precisely because of their statehood,” Kuleba told Ukrainian television. “Ukraine has already broken Russia’s plans and will continue to defend itself.”
Chernihiv regional governor Vyacheslav Chaus reported that the Russians also fired missiles from the territory of Belarus at the village of Honcharivska. The Chernihiv region had not been targeted in weeks.
Russian troops withdrew from the Kyiv and Chernihiv regions months ago after failing to capture either.
The renewed attacks come a day after the leader of pro-Kremlin separatists in the east, Denis Pushilin, urged Russian forces to “liberate Russian cities founded by the Russian people – Kyiv, Chernihiv, Poltava, Odesa, Dnipropetrovsk, Kharkiv, Zaporizhzhia, Lutsk.”
Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, also came under a barrage of shelling overnight, according to the mayor. Authorities said a police officer was killed in Russian shelling of a power plant in the Kharkiv region.
The southern city of Mykolaiv was fired on as well, with one person reported injured.
Meanwhile, the Ukrainian military kept up a counterattack in the Kherson region – which borders Russian-annexed Crimea – knocking out of commission a key bridge over the Dnieper River on Wednesday.
Ukrainian media quoted Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovich as saying the operation to liberate Kherson was under way, with Kyiv’s forces planning to isolate Russian troops and leave them with three options – “retreat, if possible, surrender or be destroyed.”
Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defence Council, said the Russians are concentrating maximum forces in the direction of Kherson, warning, “A very large-scale movement of their troops has begun.”
The British military said Ukraine has used its new, Western-supplied long-range artillery to damage at least three of the bridges across the Dnieper that Russia relies on to supply its forces.
The British military also said it was likely that Ukrainian forces had also established a bridgehead south of a river which runs along the wider Kherson region’s northern border.
“Ukraine’s counter-offensive in Kherson is gathering momentum,” it said in a statement.
Kyiv says it has retaken some small settlements on the region’s northern edge in recent weeks as it tries to push Russian forces back.
Ukraine’s presidential office said Thursday morning that Russian shelling of cities and villages over the past 24 hours killed at least five civilians, all of them in the eastern Donetsk province, and wounded nine.
Russia’s defence ministry said its planes had attacked a Ukrainian infantry brigade in the far north of the Kherson region and killed more than 130 of its soldiers in the last 24 hours.
In eastern Ukraine, fighting in recent weeks has focused on Donetsk province. It has intensified in recent days as Russian forces appeared to emerge from a reported “operational pause” after capturing neighbouring Luhansk province.
Ukrainian emergency authorities said two civilians were killed in a Russian bombardment of the town of Toretsk. A missile hit a residential building there early Thursday morning, destroying two floors, officials said.