Ukraine’s president has condemned a Russian attack that the region’s governor said killed at least six people and wounded 16 in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second city, as “despicable and cynical”.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said a block of flats had been “totally destroyed” in Wednesday night’s attack, which he said “had no justification and shows the powerlessness of the aggressor”.
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“We will not forgive, we will take revenge”, he wrote on the Telegram app.
The raid started a fire in the building in the northeastern city, Mayor Igor Terekhov said on Telegram.
Zelenskyy’s media team shared footage of the aftermath of the attack, showing emergency services gathered outside the blazing building. A voice on the video described the scene and said many people remained unaccounted for.
“Unfortunately, the number of dead and wounded in the shelling of Saltivka district has risen to six dead and 16 injured,” regional Governor Oleg Synehubov said on Telegram.
Kharkiv was a Russian target in the early days of the war, but its soldiers were not able to take the city. While Moscow has now shifted its military focus to Ukraine’s east and south, Kharkiv continues to suffer attacks from the air.
Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, claiming it needed to ‘demilitarise’ its neighbour and protect Russian-speaking communities there, but thousands have been killed, and millions of Ukrainians have fled.
Ukraine, which broke free of Russian rule when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, has accused Moscow of waging an imperial-style war of conquest.
Moscow annexed the southern peninsula of Crimea in 2014 and has supported separatist territories in Donetsk and Luhansk.
It previously saw Crimea as a secure rear base for its war in Ukraine, but the area has come under increasing pressure in recent weeks.
On Tuesday, an ammunition depot in the peninsula’s north was engulfed in fire, and plumes of smoke were later seen rising at a second Russian military base in central Crimea, Russia’s Kommersant newspaper said. Blasts destroyed warplanes at a Russian naval airbase there last week.
Ukraine has not officially taken responsibility for the attacks, but has hinted at it. The apparent Ukrainian capability to strike deeper into Russian-occupied territory, either with some form of weapon or with sabotage, indicates a shift in the conflict.
On Wednesday, Russia’s RIA news agency cited sources as saying the commander of its Black Sea fleet, Igor Osipov, had been replaced with a new chief, Viktor Sokolov.
If confirmed, the move would mark one of the most prominent sackings of a military official so far in a war in which Russia has suffered heavy losses in personnel and equipment.
State-owned RIA cited the sources as saying the new chief was introduced to members of the fleet’s military council in the Crimean port of Sevastopol.
The Black Sea Fleet, which has a revered history in Russia, has suffered several humiliations since President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion, which Moscow calls a ‘special military operation’.
One of the most high profile losses was the flagship Moskva, which was sunk in the Black Sea in April.