Russia pounds Kharkiv after expanding its war aims in Ukraine
Russian shelling pounded a densely populated area in Ukraine’s second-largest city on Thursday, killing at least three people and injuring at least 23 with a barrage that struck a mosque, a medical facility and a shopping area, according to officials and witnesses.
Police in the northeast city of Kharkiv said cluster bombs hit Barabashovo Market, a public bazaar where Associated Press journalists saw a woman crying over her husband’s body. Local officials said the shelling also struck a bus stop, a gym and a residential building.
The bombardment came after Russia on Wednesday reiterated its plans to seize territories beyond eastern Ukraine, where the Russian military has spent months trying to conquer Ukraine’s Donbas region, which is south of Kharkiv. It also followed Ukrainian attacks this week on a bridge the Russians have used to supply their forces in occupied areas near Ukraine’s southern Black Sea coast.
Kharkiv Mayor Igor Terekhov said the attacks early Thursday targeted one of the most crowded areas of the city, which had a prewar population of about 1.4 million.
“The Russian army is randomly shelling Kharkiv, peaceful residential areas — civilians are being killed,” Terekhov said. “Be careful!”
At the market, the desperate screams of Sabina Pogorelets pierced the air as she begged Ukrainian police to let her embrace her husband, Adam, a vendor whose body was lying partly covered with cloth next to a small stall. A bloody wound could be seen on his head as police officers gently pulled his wife away so that medical workers could take away his body.
“Please! I need to hold his hand!” Pogorelets cried.
Nearby, a man hugged his small daughter as he and other visitors stood in shock. Emergency teams treated at least two of the wounded in nearby ambulances.
“People started working little by little. They came out to sell things, and residents came here to buy things,” said Volodymyr Tymoshko, head of the National Police in the Kharkiv region. “And exactly this place was hit by Uragan rockets with cluster bombs to maximize the damage to people.”
The claim that cluster bombs hit Barabashovo Market could not be independently confirmed. The AP journalists at the scene shortly after the attack reported seeing burned-out cars and a bus pierced by shrapnel.
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The Kharkiv region’s governor, Oleh Sinegubov, said four people were in grave condition and a child was among those wounded. Russian forces also have shelled wheat fields in the area, setting them on fire, he said.
Elsewhere, Russian forces shelled the southern city of Mykolaiv overnight as well as the eastern cities of Kramatorsk and Kostiantynivka, where two schools were destroyed, Ukrainian officials said. A man’s body was recovered from the rubble of the school in Kramatorsk, and emergency workers say two more people were feared trapped there.
The scattered attacks illustrate broader war aims beyond Russia’s previously declared focus on the Donbas region’s Donetsk and Luhansk provinces, which pro-Moscow separatists have partly controlled since 2014.
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Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told news outlets on Wednesday that Russia plans to retain control over more territory, including the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions in southern Ukraine. Moscow also envisions making gains elsewhere, Lavrov said.
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Analysts from the Institute for the Study of War, a think tank based in Washington, said the Russian offensive in Donetsk was likely to stall before reaching the cities of Sloviansk and Bakhmut. “Russian troops are now struggling to move across relatively sparsely settled and open terrain. They will encounter terrain much more conducive to the Ukrainian defenders,” their assessment said.
Richard Moore, head of the British foreign intelligence agency MI6, had a similar take, saying the Russians “are about to run out of steam” in Ukraine.
“They will have to pause in some way, and that will give the Ukrainians opportunities to strike back,” Moore said.
He said it is important for Ukraine to demonstrate its ability to respond militarily to Russia, both to maintain morale and as “an important reminder to the rest of Europe that this is a winnable campaign by the Ukrainians, Because we are about to go into a pretty tough winter.”
Ukraine’s military reported Thursday that Russian forces attempted to storm the Vuhlehirska power station in the Donetsk region, but said “Ukrainian defenders made the enemy resort to fleeing.”
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