- Death toll in separate strike on block of flats rises to 19
- Ukraine expects intensification of hostilities
- Rescuers make voice contact with survivors under rubble
- Residents tell of miraculous escapes
CHASIV YAR, Ukraine/KYIV, July 11 (Reuters) – Russian weapons pounding Ukraine’s second largest city Kharkiv killed at least three people on Monday, authorities said, while rescuers pulled survivors from the rubble of an earlier strike on an apartment block that killed 19 people in another city.
The artillery, multiple rocket launcher and tank attack on Kharkiv also injured 31 people including two children, regional governor Oleh Synehubov said. The Ukrainian president’s office said residential areas had been hit.
In the city of Chasiv Yar, further south, rescuers made voice contact with two people in the wreckage of the five-storey apartment building hit by a rocket on Saturday, and emergency services released video of workers pulling a man from under the concrete debris, where up to two dozen people were trapped.
Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com
The attack on Chasiv Yar was part of Russia’s push to capture all of the industrial Donbas region in the east, partly controlled by separatist proxies since 2014, after declaring victory in Luhansk province earlier this month.
Military experts say Russia is using artillery barrages to pave the way for a renewed push for territory by ground forces.
Kharkiv, in the northeast close to the Russian border but outside the Donbas, suffered heavy bombardment in the first few months of the war followed by a period of relative calm that has been shattered by renewed shelling in recent weeks.
The city’s mayor, Ihor Terekhov, said civilian infrastructure had been hit by the latest strikes, including a commercial property and a tyre repair shop. read more
Moscow denies targeting civilians, but many Ukrainian cities, towns and villages have been left in ruins by Russian shelling since the Feb. 24 invasion, with basements and bomb shelters the only safe place for those who remain.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Russia had carried out 34 air strikes since Saturday, while his chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, said Moscow should be designated as a state sponsor of terrorism over the apartment bombing.
Dazed residents in Chasiv Yar who survived the attack retrieved personal belongings and told stories of their escape.
“We ran to the basement, there were three hits, the first somewhere in the kitchen,” said a resident who gave her name as Ludmila. “There was lightning, we ran towards the second entrance and then straight into the basement. We sat there all night.”
Another survivor, who gave her name as Venera, said she had wanted to save her two kittens.
“I was thrown into the bathroom, it was all chaos, I was in shock, all covered in blood,” she said, crying. “By the time I left the bathroom, the room was full up of rubble, three floors fell down. I never found the kittens.”
The war has exposed diplomatic faultlines across Europe and sent energy and food prices soaring.Applying a further phase of European Union sanctions against Russia, Lithuania on Monday expanded restrictions on trade through its territory to Russia’s Baltic coast exclave of Kaliningrad. read more
Europe’s dependence on Russian energy was preoccupying policymakers and the business world as the biggest pipeline carrying Russian gas to Germany began 10 days of annual maintenance. Governments, markets and companies are worried the shutdown might be extended because of the war. read more
Russian President Vladimir Putin calls the conflict a “special military operation” to demilitarise neighbouring Ukraine and rid it of nationalists threatening Russian speakers. Ukraine and its Western allies say Putin’s war is an imperial-style land grab and has accused his forces of war crimes.
The biggest conflict in Europe since World War Two has killed thousands of people, left cities and towns in ruins and seen more than 6 million Ukrainians flee their country.
About half returned after Russia abandoned an early advance on the capital Kyiv, in north-central Ukraine, in the face of fierce resistance bolstered by Western weapons.
WAVE OF BOMBARDMENTS
After taking Luhansk, Russian forces are now concentrating on seizing control of neighbouring Donetsk province.
Ukraine’s general staff said on Monday that Russia had launched a wave of bombardments as they seek to take Donetsk, the other province in the Donbas.
It said the widespread shelling amounted to preparations for an intensification of hostilities.
The U.S.-based Institute for the Study of War said Russian troops were regrouping and that the heavy artillery fire was intended to set conditions for future ground advances by identifying Ukrainian weaknesses.
Russia’s defence ministry said its missiles struck ammunition depots in Ukraine’s central Dnipro region used to supply rocket launchers and artillery weapons.
Reuters was unable to independently verify the battlefield reports.
Ukraine is preparing a counter-attack in the south of the country where Russia seized territory early in the war.
Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk warned civilians in the Russian-occupied Kherson region in the south on Sunday to urgently evacuate ahead of the offensive. She gave no timeframe for action.
“I know for sure that there should not be women and children there, and that they should not become human shields,” she said on national television. read more
Ukrainian forces recaptured the village of Ivanivka in the Kherson region, a Ukrainian infantry brigade said on Monday.
Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com
Reporting by Reuters bureaux; writing by Michael Perry and Frank Jack Daniel; editing by Stephen Coates and Mark Heinrich
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.