Russia opened fire with artillery, multiple rocket launchers and tanks around Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, and shelled towns in the east, where an earlier attack killed 15 people in an apartment building, Ukraine’s general staff said on Monday.
An apartment building in Kharkiv was hit by a rocket overnight but no casualties were reported, authorities said.
A rocket attack on a five-story apartment building in the eastern city of Chasiv Yar killed 15 people on Saturday night and left two dozen people feared trapped in the rubble.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s chief of staff Andriy Yermak said the attack was “another terrorist attack” and that Russia should be labeled a state sponsor of terrorism.
Moscow denies attacking civilians, but Ukrainian cities, towns and villages lie in ruins after Russian shelling, with basements and bomb shelters as the only safe place for those who remained.
On Sunday, rescuers in Chasiv Yar used a crane to lift a concrete slab and dug through the rubble with their hands, while dazed residents who survived the attack retrieved personal belongings and shared stories of their escape.
A woman was seen walking out of the destroyed building with an ironing board under her arm, an umbrella and a plastic bag. Others simply watched the rescue efforts and feared the worst as the dead were removed.
“We ran into the basement, there were three hits, the first somewhere in the kitchen,” said a resident who called herself Ludmila.
“The second, I don’t even remember, there was lightning, we ran to the second entrance and then straight to the basement. We sat there all night until this morning.”
Another survivor, who gave her name Venera, said she wanted to save her two kittens.
“I was thrown into the bathroom, it was all a mess, I was in shock, there was blood all over,” she said, crying. “When I left the bathroom, the room was full of rubble, three floors collapsed. I never found the kittens under the rubble.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine on February 24, calling the conflict a “special military operation” to demilitarize Ukraine and rid it of nationalists.
Ukraine and its Western allies say Putin’s war is an imperial land grab and accuse his forces of war crimes. Moscow denies attacking civilians.
The biggest conflict in Europe since World War II has killed thousands, reduced cities and towns to rubble and forced more than 5.5 million Ukrainians to flee their country.
Ukraine’s General Staff said on Monday that Russian forces have launched a wave of bombardments in the east as they attempt to seize control of the Donbass industrial heartland.
The widespread shelling was said to be in preparation for an intensification of hostilities.
The Kremlin has declared victory in the Donbass province of Luhansk and its forces are now focused on taking control of neighboring Donetsk.
Putin has promised to hand over control of Donbass to pro-Russian separatists, who have declared their independence from Kyiv.
Russia abandoned an early advance on the capital, Kyiv, in the face of fierce resistance, reinforced by Western arms.
Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk on Sunday warned civilians in the Russian-held Kherson region to evacuate urgently as Ukrainian forces prepare for a counterattack there, without giving a timeframe for action.
“I know for a fact that women and children shouldn’t be there and they shouldn’t become human shields,” she said on national television.
Reuters was unable to independently verify the battlefield reports.
https://www.independent.ie/news/russia-launches-widespread-shelling-ahead-of-new-assault-says-ukraine-41829858.html Russia launches widespread shelling ahead of new attack, Ukraine says