Deadly shelling in Kherson as Ukraine predicts new Russian bid to seize Kyiv

Ukraine’s military chief says Moscow’s forces preparing for new offensive early next year

Russian shelling killed at least two people in recently liberated Kherson in southern Ukraine, as the country’s top general warned that Moscow was preparing fresh forces for a new offensive early next year and would at some point launch another bid to seize Kyiv.

The Ukrainian Red Cross said a volunteer for the organisation was one of those killed on Thursday “during the mass shelling of Kherson”, which also caused another blackout across a city that Ukraine’s forces retook last month after nine months of occupation.

Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy chief of staff to Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said some of the shells struck the city centre and others hit “critical infrastructure sites” amid repeated Russian attacks on the national power grid.

“At the first opportunity, energy workers will begin to restore the electricity networks,” he said as hours-long blackouts rolled across Ukraine, where about a third of the energy system has been destroyed or badly damaged by missile and drone strikes.


Ukraine retook Kherson city and surrounding areas on the western side of the Dnipro river last month, but Russian forces dug in on the opposite bank of the river still shell Kyiv-held territory every day.

Intense fighting continued around the towns of Bakhmut and Avdiivka in the Donetsk region, where Mr Tymoshenko said on Thursday that two people had been killed and four injured by Russian shelling over the previous 24 hours. Five other civilians were killed and 15 hurt in the Kherson, Kharkiv and Zaporizhzhia provinces over the same period, he added.

“Explosions in Kharkiv. The enemy is shelling infrastructure facilities. I ask everyone to be as careful as they can and stay in shelters if possible,” the city’s mayor Ihor Terekhov wrote on social media on Thursday afternoon.

Occupation officials in Donetsk accused Ukraine’s military of hitting the city centre with dozens of rockets, killing one person and injuring nine others.

Kyiv’s forces expelled Moscow’s troops from large areas of eastern and southern Ukraine in recent months, but Gen Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, the head of Ukraine’s armed forces, warned that Russia’s military should not be underestimated and was preparing for a new offensive in the coming months.

“We estimate that they have a reserve of 1.2 million -1.5 million people…The Russians are preparing some 200,000 fresh troops. I have no doubt they will have another go at Kyiv,” he told the Economist.

Gen Zaluzhnyi said a “very important strategic task for us is to create reserves and prepare for the war, which may take place in February, at best in March, and at worst at the end of January. It may start not in Donbas, but in the direction of Kyiv, in the direction of Belarus, I do not rule out the southern direction as well”.

Ukraine could drive Russia back to the positions it held before launching all-out war on its neighbour in February, Gen Zaluzhnyi said, “but I need resources. I need 300 tanks, 600-700 IFVs [infantry fighting vehicles], 500 Howitzers… I get what I get, but it is less than what I need.”

Amid reports that the White House may send Patriot air defence systems to Ukraine, the Russian embassy in Washington warned that it would be “another provocative step by the administration, which can lead to unpredictable consequences”.

“Washington’s strategy causes enormous damage not only to the Russian-American relations, but also creates additional risks for global security. It is the United States that is responsible for the prolongation and escalation of the Ukrainian conflict,” the embassy said.

Daniel McLaughlin

Daniel McLaughlin

Daniel McLaughlin is a contributor to The Irish Times from central and eastern Europe