Monday February 06, 2023

Russia announces ‘massive strikes’ across Ukraine front

September 14, 2022

KRAMATORSK, Ukraine: Russia said on Tuesday it was carrying out "massive strikes" across the Ukrainian frontline and accused Ukrainian soldiers of abusing civilians in territories recaptured in a dramatic counter-offensive.

Moscow’s retaliation came after it was forced to pull back its troops from swathes of the northeast, particularly in the Kharkiv region, following Kyiv’s lightning assault to wrest back terrain. The territorial shifts marked one of Russia’s biggest setbacks since its troops were repelled from Kyiv in the earliest days of the nearly seven-month-long war, yet Moscow signalled it was no closer to agreeing to a negotiated peace.

"Air, rocket and artillery forces are carrying out massive strikes on units of the Ukrainian armed forces in all operational directions," the Russian defence ministry said in its daily briefing on the conflict.

"High-precision" strikes have also been launched on Ukrainian positions around Sloviansk and Konstantinovka in the eastern Donetsk region, it added. The Kremlin accused Kyiv’s army of abusing civilians in territory it had recaptured.

President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman said that in the Kharkiv region, reports were emerging of "outrageous" treatment of civilians. "There are a lot of punitive measures... people are being tortured, people are being mistreated and so on," Dmitry Peskov told journalists.

Russia’s allegations came after Ukrainian authorities claimed to have found four bodies of civilians with "signs of torture" in the recaptured eastern village of Zaliznychne. Moscow also pushed back on Tuesday against what it called growing "bias" at United Nations’ human rights bodies, a day after a top UN official condemned Moscow’s "intimidation" of people in Russia opposed to its war in Ukraine.

Residents reported that Russian troops had killed villagers, the regional prosecutor’s office said, announcing a war crime probe. Ukrainian forces launched their counter-offensive in early September, seemingly catching Russia’s military off guard.

Images posted by the Ukrainian military showed crates of munitions and military hardware scattered across territory abandoned by Russian forces.

Around the northeastern town of Balakliya, AFP journalists saw evidence of fierce battles, with buildings destroyed or damaged and streets mostly deserted. By Monday, President Volodymyr Zelensky said that Ukraine’s forces have retaken a total of 6,000 square kilometres (2,320 square miles) from Russian control.

In the northeast, dozens of areas including the cities of Izyum, Kupiansk and Balakliya have been retaken, Ukraine said. Ukrainian forces in the Kharkiv region have since September 6 reclaimed more than 300 settlements and areas home to around 150,000 people, said deputy foreign affairs minister Ganna Maliar.

Ukraine has also claimed significant gains in the southern Kherson region, where the Ukrainian army also said it had recaptured 500 square kilometres. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken assessed that the Ukrainians had made "significant progress", due to their resilience as well as US support.