After seizing Ukraine’s Luhansk province, Russian forces pound Donetsk

Ukrainian serviceman amid rubble of a school
A Ukrainian serviceman Tuesday examines the rubble of a school destroyed some days ago during a missile strike on the outskirts of Kharkiv.
(Andrii Marienko / Associated Press)
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Russian shelling killed at least eight people in Ukraine over the past 24 hours and wounded 25 more, Ukrainian officials said Wednesday. Pro-Russia separatists said attacks by Ukrainian forces killed four civilians.

The Ukrainian presidential office said Russian forces targeted cities and villages in southeast Ukraine, with most civilian casualties occurring in eastern Donetsk province, where Russia has stepped up its offensive in recent days.

Gov. Pavlo Kyrylenko said in a Telegram post that two people died in the city of Avdiivka, which is located in the center of the province, and the Donetsk cities of Slovyansk, Krasnohorivka and Kurakhove each reported one civilian killed.


“Every crime will be punished,” he wrote.

Kyrylenko urged the province’s more than 350,000 remaining residents to flee late Tuesday, saying that evacuating Donetsk was necessary to save lives and allow the Ukrainian army to put up a better defense against the Russian advance.

Donetsk is part of the Donbas, a mostly Russian-speaking industrial area where Ukraine’s most experienced soldiers are concentrated. Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday declared the complete seizure of the region’s other province, Luhansk, after Ukrainian troops withdrew from the last city under their control.

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But Luhansk Gov. Serhiy Haidai denied Wednesday that the Russians had completely captured the province. Heavy fighting continued in villages around Lysychansk, the city Ukrainians soldiers withdrew from and which Russian troops took Sunday, he said.

“The Russians have paid a high price, but the Luhansk region is not fully captured by the Russian army,” Haidai said. “Some settlements have been overrun by each side several times already.”

He accused Russian forces of scorched earth tactics, “burning down and destroying everything on their way.”

Up to 15,000 residents remain in Lysychansk and some 8,000 in the nearby city of Severodonetsk, which Russian and separatist fighters seized last month, Haidai said.


Ukrainian soldiers returning from the front in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas describe the situation there as apocalyptic in the fight against Russia.

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Pro-Russian separatists have fought Ukrainian forces and controlled much of the Donbas for eight years. Before Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, Putin recognized the independence of the two self-proclaimed separatist republics in the region.

Separatist authorities in Donetsk said Wednesday that four civilians were killed and another 14 were wounded in Ukrainian shelling over the past 24 hours. News reports said shelling hit an ammunition depot Tuesday, triggering massive explosions.

Since Russian forces failed to make inroads in capturing Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, Moscow has concentrated its offensive on seizing the remaining Ukrainian-held areas of the Donbas.

To the north of Donetsk, Russian forces also hit Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, with missile strikes overnight, the Kharkiv regional governor said Wednesday on Telegram.

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Three districts of the city were targeted, Gov. Oleh Sinegubov said. One person was killed, and three people, including a toddler, sustained injuries, according to the governor.

A missile struck a building where military registration takes place. A government building next door remained intact, and people just steps away glanced at the wreckage in passing.


Closer to the front line and in a more abandoned district of the city, first responders crunched through the debris of another overnight attack on the national teaching university in Kharkiv. Pages of dusty textbooks flapped in the breeze.

The attacks indicated that the city, which is located close to the Russian border, is unlikely to get a reprieve as the war grinds on in its fifth month.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said its air force killed up to 100 Ukrainian troops and destroyed four armored vehicles in Kkarkiv.

The ministry’s chief spokesman, Igor Konashenkov, said air-launched high-precision missiles also destroyed two HIMARS multiple-launch rocket systems the U.S. sent to Ukraine. He said ammunition warehouses also were destroyed in Donetsk, while a Ukrainian air-defense radar and a camp housing foreign fighters were hit in southern Ukraine’s Mykolaiv region.

Also Wednesday, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the 27-nation European Union needs to make emergency plans to prepare for a complete cutoff of Russian gas in the wake of the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine. The EU has already imposed sanctions on Russia, including on some energy supplies, and is trying to find other fuel sources, but Von der Leyen said the bloc needed to be ready for shock disruptions by Moscow.

And EU lawmakers voted to support a plan by the bloc’s executive commission to include natural gas and nuclear power in its list of sustainable activities. Environmentalists accused the EU of “greenwashing.” One argument for rejecting the proposal was that it could boost gas sales that benefit Russia. The commission said it had a letter from the Ukrainian government backing its stance.