Russia attacks Ukraine along the front line from north to south

Russia has shelled Ukrainian cities across a long stretch of the front line from north to south, Ukrainian officials said on Friday, a day after Moscow fired dozens of rockets in its latest barrage against critical infrastructure.

Air raid sirens wailed in the capital Kyiv overnight through Friday, and Reuters heard multiple explosions and the sound of anti-aircraft fire south of the city as Russian forces fired 16 Iranian-made Shahed drones, officials said.

The Ukrainian military said all drones were destroyed. Seven targeted Kyiv, where an administrative building was damaged, Mayor Vitali Klitschko said.

In an evening report on Friday, the General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces said Russian forces had attempted to advance near Bakhmut and Avdiivka, focal points of their slow-moving campaign to take the entire Donetsk region in the east.

Russian forces shelled several towns and villages including Bakhmut, Kudryumivka to the south, nearby Soledar and also the key town of Kostyantynivka west of Bakhmut.

Russian forces also fired on Avdiivka, the nearby key town of Maryinka and Nevelske, the Facebook report said. Russian forces shelled settlements further west in the Donetsk region, including the town of Vuhledar.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Ukrainian forces are holding their positions in the eastern Donbass region and are making small advances in some areas.

“Broadly speaking, we are holding our positions,” said Zelenskyj in his nightly video address on Friday. “There are also some areas on the front lines where we are making a little progress.”

Russian forces shelled several towns near Kupyansk in northeastern Kharkiv region, which were recaptured from Ukraine in September, the general staff report said, as well as settlements in the Luhansk region where Ukrainian forces hope after gains in the last one to advance weeks.

Russia also shelled areas in the Zaporizhia region in the south, including the embattled city of Hulyaipole. There was also shelling in and around Ukrainian-held Nikopol, on the opposite side of the Kakhovka reservoir from the Russian-held Zaporizhia nuclear power plant.

On the southern front, there was renewed Russian shelling of infrastructure in the city of Kherson – which was abandoned by Russian forces last month – and Kachkarivka, further north on the west bank of the Dnipro River.

Russia’s Defense Ministry earlier said it carried out a “massive strike” on energy and military industry targets to disrupt Ukraine’s ability to repair equipment and move troops. Zelenskyi said the attacks were aimed at energy infrastructure and most were repelled.

Since October, Russia has launched mass missile and drone attacks on civilian infrastructure across Ukraine on an almost weekly basis, leaving millions without heat and electricity in the dead of winter. Russia says its goal is to reduce Ukraine’s combat capability. Kyiv says the attacks are intended to harm civilians.

Reuters could not immediately verify the battlefield reports.

Russian President Vladimir Putin held a video conference call with Chinese President Xi Jinping, the world’s most powerful head of state, who has not condemned Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine.

In an eight-minute speech with the Chinese leader, which was broadcast on Russian state television, Putin said he expects a state visit by his “dear friend” Xi to Moscow in the spring to “demonstrate to the world the closeness of Russo-Chinese relations.”

Putin said he wants to deepen military cooperation between the two countries, whose ties are becoming increasingly important as a stabilizing factor.

Responding for just two minutes, Xi said China stands ready to step up strategic cooperation with Russia amid what he called a “difficult” situation in the world at large.

Belarus, a close Russian ally that has so far held back from entering the war, has summoned Ukraine’s ambassador to complain about an alleged Ukrainian air-defense missile that flew into Belarusian airspace on Thursday.

“Kyiv is striving to provoke a regional conflict by any means necessary,” Alexander Wolfovich, secretary of the Belarusian Security Council, told the Russian state-run news channel Sputnik Belarus.

Ukraine’s Defense Ministry suggested the episode was a Russian provocation, but reserved the right to protect its own skies.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg called on NATO member states to supply more weapons to Ukraine.

“It is in all our security interests that Ukraine prevails and Putin does not win,” Stoltenberg told the German Press Agency DPA in an interview published on Friday.

“We know that most wars end at the negotiating table – probably including this war – but we know that what Ukraine can achieve in these negotiations depends inextricably on the military situation.”

The United States last week announced nearly $2 billion in additional military aid, including the Patriot air defense system, which provides protection from aircraft, cruise missiles and ballistic missiles.

Russia has invaded Ukraine in what Putin calls a “special military operation” against what he describes as a threat to Russia’s security. Ukraine and its Western allies are calling it an imperialist-style war of conquest.

Tens of thousands of Ukrainian civilians have been killed in cities devastated by Russian forces. Tens of thousands of soldiers have died on both sides.

© Thomson Reuters 2022.

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