President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has promised that Ukraine’s campaign to regain territory lost to Russia will not stop.
The pledge on Sunday came as the United Kingdom said Russian forces were stepping up attacks on civilian infrastructure and a top United States general warned it was unclear how Moscow would respond to the setbacks on the battlefield in Ukraine.
Zelensky said Ukrainian troops will continue to put pressure on Russia.
“Maybe it seems to some of you now that after a string of wins, we are now having a kind of silence,” he said in his overnight video address. “But this is not a routine. This is a preparation for the next series… Because Ukraine must be free – everything.”
The Ukrainian army said its forces had repulsed attacks by Russian forces in areas of the Kharkiv region to the east and Kherson to the south, where Ukraine launched a counter-offensive this month, as well as in parts of neighboring Donetsk. It said Ukrainian troops had moved to the east bank of the Oskil River in the Kharkov region.
“As of yesterday, Ukraine controls the eastern bank,” it said on Telegram.
Serhiy Haidai, governor of the neighboring Luhansk region, said this meant his region’s “deoccupation” was “not far off”.
When Russian shells hit towns and villages this weekend, the British Ministry of Defense warned that Moscow would likely launch more attacks on civilian targets as the country suffers defeats on the battlefield.
“In the past seven days, Russia has increased its targets on civilian infrastructure, even where it is unlikely to see an immediate military effect,” the ministry said in an online briefing. “While facing setbacks on the front lines, Russia has likely expanded the sites it is prepared to attack in an effort to directly undermine the morale of the Ukrainian people and government.”
US Army General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, meanwhile, called for vigilance after visiting a base in Poland in support of Ukraine’s war effort. His comments were a reminder of the risks of escalation if the US and its NATO allies help Ukraine at a distance.
“The war is not going well for Russia at the moment. So it is our duty to maintain a high level of preparedness and alertness,” he said after his trip to the base, who were asked reporters who traveled with him not to to identify.
Putin, Biden Warnings
However, Russian President Vladimir Putin brushed aside Ukraine’s swift counter-offensive, saying Moscow would respond more forcefully if its forces were put under further pressure.
Such repeated threats have raised concerns that Putin could at some point turn to small nuclear weapons or chemical warfare.
When asked what he would say to Putin if he considers using such weapons, US President Joe Biden replied in an interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes”: “Don’t. Don’t. Don’t. It would be the face of war.” change like nothing since World War II.”
Some military analysts have said Russia could also stage a nuclear incident at Zaporizhzhya, Europe’s largest nuclear power plant owned by Russia but run by Ukrainian personnel. Moscow and Kiev have accused each other of shelling around the factory that damaged buildings and disrupted power lines needed to keep it cool and safe.
A top Vatican envoy reportedly came under fire on Saturday in the city of Zaporizhzhya for helping distribute humanitarian supplies there. The incident forced the Vatican chaplain, Cardinal Konrad Krajewski and others to run for cover, the Vatican news service said on Sunday. It reported no injuries.
“For the first time in my life I didn’t know where to run. Because running is not enough, you have to know where to go,” said the Polish-born cardinal, whose office makes charitable contributions on behalf of the Pope.
Ukrainian officials, meanwhile, reported ongoing shelling across much of the country.
Russian fire killed four medics on Saturday trying to evacuate a psychiatric hospital in the Kharkiv region, Governor Oleh Syniehubov said. Two patients were injured in the Strelecha attack, he said.
Overnight shelling also hit a hospital in Mykolaiv, a major Black Sea port, regional governor Vitaliy Kim said. And according to regional governors, five civilians were killed in Russian attacks in the eastern region of Donetsk over the past day and several dozen residential buildings, gas pipelines and power lines were hit in Nikopol, further west.
Separately, the pro-Russian separatist forces controlling much of Donetsk accused Ukraine of shelling a POW colony in Olenivka, saying that one prisoner was killed and four injured in the attacks.
Al Jazeera could not independently verify the battlefield reports.
In areas recaptured from Russian troops, returning Ukrainians searched for their dead relatives.
In Izyum, where Ukrainian officials said they had found 440 bodies in a forest grave, Volodymyr Kolesnyk tried to match numbers on wooden crosses with names on a neatly handwritten list to locate relatives he believes were killed in an airstrike early in the war. war. Kolesnyk told Reuters news agency that he had been given the list of a local funeral company that dug the graves.
“They buried the bodies in sacks, without coffins, without anything. I wasn’t allowed here at first. She [Russians] said it was mined and asked to wait,” he said.
Meanwhile, prosecutors in Kharkiv accuse Russia of torturing civilians in a village that was recently liberated. In an online statement, they said they had found a basement where Russian troops allegedly tortured prisoners in Kozacha Lopan, near the border with Russia. In images they released, they showed a Russian military TA-57 phone with extra wires and alligator clips attached to it. Ukrainian officials have accused Russian troops of using Soviet-era radiotelephones as a power source to shock detainees during interrogation.
It was not immediately possible to verify the claims of the Ukrainians.
Elsewhere in the region, residents of towns recaptured after six months of Russian occupation returned with a mixture of joy and trepidation.
“I still feel like at any moment a grenade could explode or a plane could fly over,” said Nataliia Yelistratova, who traveled 80 km (50 miles) with her husband and daughter on a train from Kharkiv to her hometown of Balakliya to find her apartment building. intact, but marked by shelling.
“I’m still scared to be here,” she said after discovering shrapnel in a wall.