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Russia pounds Kharkiv, presses Donbas assault

KHARKIV, UKRAINE (AFP) – Ukraine’s second city Kharkiv yesterday reeled from a deadly onslaught of Russian shelling as Moscow pressed its offensive to capture key points in the eastern Donbas region with more bombing of residential areas.

The pounding of Kharkiv, which according to local officials left at least nine people dead, raised fears that Russia had not lost interest in the city even after Ukraine took back control after fierce battles.

Over three months after Russia launched its invasion on February 24 – and which has left thousands dead on both sides and displaced millions of Ukrainian civilians – Moscow is focussing on the east of Ukraine after failing in its initial ambition to capture Kyiv.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky reiterated accusations that Moscow is carrying out a “genocide” in Donbas, saying its bombardment could leave the entire region “uninhabited”.

Regional governor of Kharkiv Oleg Sinegubov said that nine civilians had been killed in the Russian shelling on Thursday.

A five-month-old child and her father were among the dead, while her mother was gravely wounded, he said on social media channels.

An AFP reporter in the city said the northern residential district of Pavlove Pole was hit and saw plumes of smoke rising from the area.

A man drives a car past a damaged building in Kharkiv, eastern Ukraine. PHOTO: AFP

The journalist saw several people wounded near a shuttered shopping centre, while an elderly man with injuries to his arm and leg was carried away by medics.

Kharkiv mayor Igor Terekhov said the northeastern city’s metro, which resumed work this week after being used mainly as a shelter since the Russian invasion, would continue operating, but also offer a safe space for residents.

In Donbas, Russian forces were closing in on several cities, including strategically located Severodonetsk and Lysychansk which stand on the crucial route to Ukraine’s eastern administrative centre in Kramatorsk.

Pro-Russian separatists said they had captured the town of Lyman that lies between Severodonetsk and Kramatorsk and is on the road leading to the key cities that are still under Kyiv’s control.

Lugansk regional governor Sergiy Gaiday said in a video on Telegram that at least five civilians had been killed in the Lugansk region – part of Donbas – in the last 24 hours alone.

Four had been killed in Severodonetsk and another person in Komyshovakha 50 kilometres outside Severodonetsk, he said, accusing Russia of “ceaselessly shelling residential areas”.

In Kramatorsk, children roamed the rubble left by Russian attacks as the sound of artillery fire boomed.

“I am not scared,” said Yevgen, a sombre-looking 13-year-old who moved to Kramatorsk with his mother from the ruins of his village Galyna.

“I got used to the shelling,” he declared as he sat alone on a slab of a destroyed apartment block.