Russia says it is stepping up operations as Ukraine is hit by multiple attacks

Locals search for documents of their injured friend in the debris of a destroyed apartment house in Chuhuiv. Credit: AP

Russia intensified its onslaught against Ukraine on Saturday, with civilian casualties reported in several areas of the country as Moscow ordered its forces to step up operations in the embattled country.

At least three civilians were killed and three more injured in a Russian rocket strike on the northern Ukrainian city of Chuhuiv in the early hours of Saturday, a regional police chief said. Serhiy Bolvinov, the deputy head of Kharkiv’s regional police force, said that the rockets were likely fired from Russian territory. A 70-year-old woman was among those killed.

“Four Russian rockets, presumably fired from around (the Russian city of) Belgorod at night, at about 3:30, hit a residential building, a school and administrative buildings,” Mr Bolvinov wrote on Facebook. “The bodies of three people were found under the rubble. Three more were injured. The victims are civilians."

In the neighbouring Sumy region, one civilian was killed and at least seven more were injured after Russians opened mortar and artillery fire on three towns and villages not far from the Russian border, regional governor Dmytro Zhyvytsky said on Saturday morning.

A local man walks in front of a crater and damaged school after Russian shelling in a residential area in Chuhuiv, Kharkiv region. Credit: AP

In Ukraine’s south, two people were wounded by Russian shelling in the town of Bashtanka, northeast of the Black Sea city of Mykolaiv, according to regional governor Vitaliy Kim.

Elsewhere, two people were killed and a woman was hospitalised after a Russian rocket strike on the eastern riverside city of Nikopol, emergency services said.

Separately, officials said that Russian cruise missiles had killed at least three people and injured 16 others in Ukraine's central city of Dnipro when they hit a space rocket plant and a nearby street.

Ukraine’s air force said several Kh-101 cruise missiles fired from Russian strategic bombers over the Caspian Sea hit a factory about 10 pm on Friday in Dnipro, a major city on the Dnieper River.

Four incoming missiles were intercepted, it said, but three people were confirmed to have been killed in the attack.

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Among the dead was a city bus driver, according to a local transportation official.

"The man had finished his work day and was headed to the depot to go back to work at five am tomorrow. He didn't make it," Ivan Vasyuchkov wrote on his Facebook page.

"Two children have been left without a father. A really young guy, my age, he still had so much time to live. There are simply no words."

The emergency service said two vehicles were burned up, with ten others damaged.

The missile strikes also set the factory on fire and blew out windows in nearby apartment buildings.

The assault on Dnipro came a day after a Russian missile strike killed at least 23 people and injured more than 200 in Vinnytsia, a city southwest of Kyiv.

Dnipro has welcomed scores of Ukrainians fleeing the fighting further east in the Donbas region, where Russia has concentrated its troops.

Moscow has also been pounding other parts of the country in a relentless push to wrest territory from Ukraine and soften the morale of its leaders, civilians and troops, as the war nears the five-month mark.

Russia's defence ministry said that Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu had ordered military units to step up their operations to prevent strikes on eastern Ukraine and other Russian-controlled territory.

It said Shoigu "gave the necessary instructions to further increase the actions of groups in all operational areas in order to exclude the possibility of the Kyiv regime launching massive rocket and artillery strikes on civilian infrastructure and residents of settlements in Donbas and other regions".

Despite the ongoing attacks, the UK’s Ministry of Defence says Russia’s momentum has slowed.

"Ukrainian defence has been successful in repulsing Russian attacks since Lysychansk was ceded and the Ukrainian defensive line was shortened and straightened," its latest intelligence update read.

"This has allowed for the concentration of force and fires against reduced Russian attacks and has been instrumental in reducing Russia’s momentum."