Villages and towns in Ukraine suffer heavy fighting and shelling

Villages and towns across Ukraine saw more heavy fighting and shelling on Wednesday as Ukrainian and Russian forces scrambled to advance on different fronts after more than 8.5 months of war. At least nine civilians were killed and 24 others injured in 24 hours, the Ukrainian president’s office said. He accused Russia of using explosive drones, rockets, heavy artillery and aircraft to attack eight regions in the south-east of the country.

Ukrainian and Russian forces also clashed overnight over Snihurivka, a town about 50 kilometers (30 miles) north of the southern city of Kherson. The Ukrainian military hopes to reclaim the Russian-occupied city, the only regional capital captured in the Feb. 24 invasion of Moscow and a key target in an ongoing counteroffensive.

Kirill Stremousov, deputy head of the Kremlin-appointed administration of the Kherson region, said in a Telegram article that the Ukrainian army had “gained a foothold” along a railway line in northern Snihurivka. In a separate article, he claimed that Russian forces had repelled the Ukrainian advance.

The Kherson region is one of four provinces in Ukraine that Russian President Vladimir Putin illegally annexed and later placed under Russian martial law. The Russian army concentrated much of its firepower on controlling the others – Luhansk, Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia.

Earlier this week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy reiterated that the return of all occupied territories was a condition for any peace talks with Russia. The Kremlin is unlikely to give up its internationally unrecognized claim to the regions annexed in September or to Crimea, which Russia seized from Ukraine in 2014.

The president’s office said widespread Russian strikes on Ukraine’s energy system were continuing. Two towns not far from Europe’s largest nuclear power plant were bombed overnight, he added. More than 20 residential buildings, an industrial factory, a gas pipeline and a power line were reportedly damaged in Nikopol, which is across the Dnieper River from the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.

Further west, in the Dnipropetrovsk region, the Ukrainian governor reported “massive” night strikes with the explosion of Iranian-made drones that injured four workers of an energy company in the city of Dnipro.

“Attacks against civilian infrastructure are war crimes in themselves. The Kremlin is at war with Ukrainian civilians, trying to leave millions of people without water or light (so that they) freeze in the winter,” Governor Valentyn Reznichenko told Ukrainian television. In a related development, a senior Russian security official arrived in Iran on Tuesday evening for high-level talks, Russian media reported.

News of the trip by Nikolai Patrushev, secretary of Russia’s powerful Security Council chaired by Putin, came days after Tehran admitted supplying Moscow with the explosive-laden drones, after weeks of official denials.

A Washington-based think tank linked Patrushev’s visit to likely talks about the possible sale of Iranian surface-to-surface ballistic missiles to Russia. The Institute for the Study of War said on Tuesday evening that the Kremlin “continues its efforts to secretly acquire munitions for use in Ukraine, to mitigate the effects of international sanctions and to fill the continuous depletion of national ammunition stocks by Russia”.

The increasingly close military and political cooperation between Moscow and Tehran at the time of the war in Ukraine worries the United States and other Western powers.

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Christi C. Elwood