Russia advances into eastern Ukraine, apartment attack kills civilians
- Russian attack destroys apartment building; 3 dead – officials
- Zelenskiy gives a grim assessment of the Russian offensive in the east
- Zelenskiy promises more anti-corruption measures
- New Russian offensive could start on February 24: Ukraine minister
Kyiv, Feb 2 (Reuters) – The battle on the front in eastern Ukraine “has gotten tougher” as Russian forces seek gains that they could show on the first anniversary of their invasion on February 24, the President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in a statement. grim assessment.
Determined to make progress before Ukraine gets newly promised Western battle tanks and armored vehicles, Russia has gathered momentum on the battlefield, announcing advances north and south of the Ukrainian town of Bakhmut in Donetsk.
Bakhmut and 10 towns and villages around it were attacked by Russia, the Ukrainian military said late Wednesday. Bakhmut has suffered from persistent Russian shelling for months.
Avdiivka, another major Russian target, the nearby town of Maryinka and some neighboring settlements were also hit, the army added.
In Kramatorsk, about 55 kilometers (34 miles) northwest of Bakhmut, a Russian missile destroyed an apartment building and damaged seven on Wednesday, killing at least three people and injuring 20, police said.
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“A definite increase in the offensive operations of the occupiers has been noted on the front in the east of our country. The situation has become more difficult,” Zelenskiy said.
“The enemy is trying to achieve at least something now to show that Russia has some chance on the anniversary of the invasion,” he added in an evening video address.
Zelenskiy vowed more anti-corruption measures as authorities continue their raids ahead of a meeting in Kyiv with more than a dozen top European Union officials on Friday, reflecting a determination to show Ukraine can be a trustworthy steward of thousands of millions of dollars in aid.
Ukraine views the meeting as important to its hopes of joining the bloc, which may take years.
Earlier, security officials searched the home of businessman Ihor Kolomoiskiy, a former Zelenskiy ally, in what media said was an investigation into alleged financial crimes.
Kolomoiskiy could not immediately be reached for comment. He denied doing anything wrong.
MISSILE ARRIVES AT KRAMATORSK
In Kramatorsk, police said a Russian Iskander-K tactical missile hit at 9:45 pm (1945 GMT).
“At least eight apartment buildings were damaged. One of them was completely destroyed,” police said in a Facebook post.
“People can stay under the rubble.”
At least 44 people were killed in January when a Russian missile hit an apartment building in the city of Dnipro.
In April 2022, Ukraine said 57 people were killed when a Russian missile hit the Kramatorsk train station. Russia, which denies targeting civilians, said the missile was Ukrainian.
A former commander of Russia’s Wagner mercenary group who fled to Norway in January told Reuters he wanted to apologize for fighting in Ukraine and was speaking out to bring perpetrators of atrocities to justice.
“First of all, again and again, I would like to apologize,” said Andrei Medvedev, 26.
Ukraine and its Western allies have accused Russian forces of war crimes. Russia rejects it.
Wagner’s group has been locked in a battle of attrition in Donetsk.
‘WE NEED WEAPONS’
Donetsk and Lugansk, declared annexed by Russia in September after phony referendums, make up Ukraine’s industrial Donbas region, the target of Russian forces after a failed advance on the capital Kyiv early in the campaign.
In the past 24 hours, Ukrainian forces repelled attacks on several centers in Donetsk, including Bakhmut, Krasna Hora and Blahodatne, Ukrainian military analyst Oleh Zhdanov said.
Russian forces said they took Blahodatne, just north of Bakhmut, on Tuesday.
They were also advancing south of Bakhmut, using their superior troop numbers to try to cut off resupply and force the Ukrainians out, Ukrainian military analyst Yevhen Dikiy said.
“This is for us the most difficult scenario,” Dikiy told Espreso TV, referring to what he called a “measure of success” for the Russian forces.
“The enemy is capable of using his only resource, which he has in excess, his men.”
Reuters could not confirm the reports from the battlefield.
Both Russia and Ukraine are believed to be preparing new offensives and Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said a Russian push could begin around the symbolically important date of February 24.
“We keep telling our partners that we have to be ready for this, as quickly as possible. And that is why we need weapons,” Reznikov, visiting Paris on Tuesday, told French BFM television.
Ukraine has obtained weapons promises from the West that offer new capabilities; the last one this week is expected to include rockets from the United States that would nearly double the range of Ukrainian forces.
The Kremlin said longer-range rockets from the United States would intensify the conflict but not change its course.
President Vladimir Putin sent troops into Ukraine last year for a “special military operation” to “demilitarize” and “denazify” his neighbor, but now casts the campaign as a fight to defend Russia against an aggressive West.
Ukraine and the West accuse Russia of waging an illegal war to expand its territory.
Reuters bureau reports; written by Grant McCool and Himani Sarkar; Edited by Cynthia Osterman and Robert Birsel
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