Ukraine has said that Russia appears to be regrouping to launch an attack on Sloviansk, a city of symbolic importance controlled by Ukraine in the eastern region of Donetsk.
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A Ukrainian military official said Russia is preparing for the next phase of its offensive in Ukraine, after Moscow said its forces would step up military operations in “all areas of operation”.
Russian missiles and rockets have pounded cities in strikes that Kyiv says have killed dozens in recent days.
“It’s not just air and sea missile strikes,” said Vadim Skipetsky, a spokesman for Ukraine’s military intelligence, on Saturday. “We can see the bombing along the entire line of contact, along the entire front line. There is an active use of tactical aviation and attack helicopters.
“There is already a certain activation of the enemy along the entire front line… It is clear that preparations are now underway for the next stage of the offensive.”
The Ukrainian military said Russia appeared to be regrouping its units to launch an attack on the symbolically important Ukrainian-controlled city of Slovansk in the eastern Donetsk region.
Ukraine says at least 40 people have been killed in Russian bombing of urban areas in the past three days, as the war launched by Russian President Vladimir Putin on February 24 intensified.
The missiles hit the northeastern town of Chuhiv in the Kharkiv region on Friday night, killing three people including a 70-year-old woman and wounding three others, regional governor Oleh Senhopov said.
“Three people lost their lives, why? Why? Because Putin went crazy?” Said Risa Shapoval, 83, a stunned resident sitting on the ruins of her home.
To the south, more than 50 Russian Grad rockets pounded the city of Nikopol on the Dnipro River, killing two people found under the rubble, Governor Valentin Reznichenko said.
Moscow, which describes the invasion as a “special military operation” to disarm and “discredit” its neighbor, says it is using high-precision weapons to undermine Ukraine’s military infrastructure and protect its security. It has repeatedly denied targeting civilians.
Kyiv and the West say the conflict is an unjustified attempt to reoccupy a country freed from Moscow’s rule with the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has ordered military units to step up operations to prevent Ukrainian strikes on eastern Ukraine and other Russian-controlled areas, as he said Kyiv could hit civilian infrastructure or the population, according to a statement from the ministry.
His comments appeared to be a direct response to what Kyiv called a series of successful strikes on 30 Russian logistical and munitions centers, using several of the multiple launch missile systems recently provided by the West.
Ukraine’s Defense Ministry spokesman said on Friday that the strikes had caused chaos in Russia’s supply lines and significantly reduced Russia’s offensive capability.