Ukraine: 5 Dead, 17 Wounded In Russian Airstrike In Sloviansk
At least five people were killed and 17 were wounded on Friday from a Russian airstrike in the eastern Ukrainian city of Sloviansk. According to Ukraine’s National Police, S-300 missiles struck 10 apartment buildings and other sites. The two top floors of a five-story building collapsed after the strike. Rescue teams were looking for survivors.
A child was pulled alive from the rubble but died on the way to a hospital, said Daria Zarivna, a senior official in Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s office. Donetsk Regional Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko also said seven people were believed to have been trapped under the debris.
“The evil state once again demonstrates its essence,” Zelenskyy wrote in a post accompanied by footage of a damaged building. “Just killing people in broad daylight. Ruining, destroying all life.”
Russia renews Bakhmut assault
Ukrainian troops have been forced to withdraw from some parts of Bakhmut after a renewed Russian assault on the ravaged city. In its daily assessment, Britain’s military said Friday, “Russia has re-energized its assault on the Donetsk Oblast town of Bakhmut as forces of the Russian MoD [Ministry of Defense] and Wagner Group have improved co-operation.”
Ukrainian officials say Russia has been drawing down troops from other areas on the front for a major push on Bakhmut, which Moscow has been trying to capture for nine months to regain momentum of the all-out invasion it launched more than a year ago.
Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said Russian commanders had redirected troops to Bakhmut from other areas.
“The enemy is using its most professional units there and resorting to a significant amount of artillery and aviation,” she wrote on the Telegram messaging app.
“Every day, the enemy carries out in Bakhmut from 40 to 50 storming operations and 500 shelling episodes,” she noted. The British update said the Ukrainians still held western districts of the town but had been subjected to particularly intense Russian artillery fire during the previous two days.
“Ukrainian forces face significant resupply issues but have made orderly withdrawals from the positions they have been forced to concede,” it said.
China makes promise
In other key developments, China is promising it won’t sell weapons to Russia or Ukraine, Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang said Friday. He made that vow in response to Western concerns that Beijing could provide military assistance to Russia.
China has asserted its neutrality in the conflict, while Western nations have imposed sanctions against Moscow. Qin added that China would also regulate the export of items with dual civilian and military use.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian forces say they are discovering a growing number of Chinese components in Russian weaponry used in Ukraine. Vladyslav Vlasiuk, senior adviser to President Zelenskyy, told Reuters via a video call that in “the weapons recovered from the battlefield, we continue to find different electronics.”
Fleet shows force
The entire Russian Pacific Fleet was put on high alert Friday for military exercises that will include practice missile launches in a massive show of force amid tensions with the West over the war in Ukraine.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said the goal of the war games is to measure the capability of Russia’s armed forces to mount a response if threatened.
The drills also will involve nuclear-capable strategic bombers and other warplanes in addition to the naval aviation of the Pacific Fleet, Shoigu said.
The Russian Defense Ministry released videos showing warships and submarines heading to the maneuvers, while its military has concentrated most of its forces on the front lines in Ukraine.
On Ukraine’s northern border, Russian ally Belarus said Friday that its pilots had finished training in Russia, where they are learning how to operate Su-25 fighter planes.
“The acquired knowledge and skills will serve to ensure the military security of the Union State,” Minsk’s Defense Ministry said, referring to Belarus’ political union with Russia.
Moscow stocks nuclear plant
Russian forces have brought large amounts of provisions and water supplies to the nuclear power plant (ZNPP) they captured in southeastern Ukraine after invading last year, Kyiv’s state atomic agency Energoatom said Friday.
The agency said this activity might indicate Russia is preparing to keep employees inside because of a dire shortage of qualified staff at Europe’s largest nuclear plant and in anticipation of Ukraine’s much-expected counter-offensive.
“Given the intense shortage of nuclear specialists needed to operate the temporarily occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant and fearing a Ukrainian offensive, the [Russians] are preparing for the long-term holding of ZNPP employees as hostages,” Energoatom said.
“The invaders have already brought a lot of provisions and water to the station,” the agency added in a statement. “The occupiers will probably not allow the station staff to leave after one of the regular work shifts, forcibly blocking them at the ZNPP,” it said.
There was no immediate comment from Russia.
Ukraine investigates beheading video
In a tweet Friday, Ukrainian leader Zelenskyy thanked British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak for condemning the “inhumane execution” of a Ukrainian soldier. “Together we must stop the aggressor & put an end to terror,” he said.
Ukrainian officials on Wednesday opened an investigation into a video on social media purportedly showing one of Kyiv’s soldiers being beheaded.
News agencies could not immediately verify the authenticity of the video. Zelenskyy said the video shows the “execution of a Ukrainian captive” and that “everyone must react. Do not expect that it will be forgotten that time will pass.”