At least three Ukrainian civilians have been killed and nearly 20 others wounded in the latest artillery barrages from the Russian military, Ukrainian officials said on Monday.
The eastern region of Donetsk, one of the two provinces making up the country’s industrial heartland of Donbas that has been the focus of a Russian offensive, has faced the most intense shelling.
Regional officials said at least three people died and another 13 were wounded by Russian shelling that hit numerous towns and villages in the Donetsk region over 24 hours.
The barrage has damaged dozens of residential buildings and civilian infrastructure.
In the country’s second-largest city of Kharkiv, five civilians were wounded in the latest Russian shelling early on Monday, according to the city’s mayor, Ihor Terekhov.
The Russian forces also struck several other regions of Ukraine with rockets and artillery.
For their part, the Ukrainian military claimed to have destroyed more than 10 Russian warehouses with ammunition and military equipment in the past week.
Meanwhile, the Ukrainian parliament, Verkhovna Rada, extended martial law and the country’s general mobilisation for another 90 days.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Sunday: “Ukraine has always longed and longs for peace and many times in various negotiation formats has offered the Russian leadership to end the war and free Ukrainian land from occupation.
“But so far, Russia believes in terror, remains in the grip of its propaganda illusions and still hopes that it can supposedly achieve something through various forms of blackmail. It won’t.”
He emphasised that “we must defend ourselves”, adding that “the stronger Ukraine will be, the weaker Russia will be, and therefore, the less time this war will last”.
He also dismissed the heads of three regional branches of Ukraine’s top security agency, SBU, in the Kyiv, Lviv and Tarnopil regions. Mr Zelenskiy’s office did not elaborate on the reasons behind the move.
Last month, he dismissed SBU chief Ivan Bakanov and a chief prosecutor, saying their departments had too many people who faced accusations of collaborating with the Russians.
Speaking at the opening of an arms show outside Moscow, Russian president Vladimir Putin hailed the military’s action in Ukraine, declaring that it “fights for Russia … and fulfilling all the tasks that were set, liberating the Donbas step by step”.
In a separate development, a Russian-backed separatist court in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk charged five foreign nationals captured fighting with Ukrainian forces with being mercenaries on Monday, saying three could face the death penalty, Russian media reported.
Briton John Harding, Croatian Vjekoslav Prebeg and Swedish citizen Mathias Gustafsson, who were captured in and around the port city of Mariupol, face a possible death sentence under the laws of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, Russian state-owned news agency Tass reported.
Two more Britons, Dylan Healy and Andrew Hill, were also charged but do not face execution. All five of the accused pleaded not guilty to the charges, Tass said. It cited the judge as saying that the trial would resume in early October.
In response to the charges against Mr Prebeg, the Croatian foreign ministry said: “Croatia dismisses the indictment and does not consider it to be founded and legal because it is opposed to international law and international conventions on the treatment of detained civilians and prisoners of war.”
The British Foreign Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Donetsk authorities in June sentenced to death two Britons and one Moroccan citizen captured fighting with Ukrainian forces against Russia on charges of attempting to forcibly seize power, and of being mercenaries.
Foreign governments have declined to negotiate with the Donetsk People’s Republic, one of two Russian-backed entities that have controlled parts of east Ukraine’s Donbas region since 2014, citing its internationally recognised status as part of Ukraine. – AP/Reuters
(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2022