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    Russia taking ‘operational pause’ in Ukraine, analysts say

    KYIV, UKRAINE (AP) – Foreign analysts said Russia may be temporarily easing its offensive in Ukraine as the Russian military attempts to reassemble its forces for a renewed assault.

    On Wednesday, Russian forces made no claimed or assessed territorial gains in Ukraine “for the first time in 133 days of war”, according to the Institute for the Study of War. The think tank based in Washington suggested that Moscow may be taking an “operational pause” that does not entail “the complete cessation of active hostilities”.

    “Russian forces will likely confine themselves to relatively small-scale offensive actions as they attempt to set conditions for more significant offensive operations and rebuild the combat power needed to attempt those more ambitious undertakings,” the institute said.

    Shelling continued in Ukraine’s east, where at least nine civilians were killed and six wounded in 24 hours, Ukrainian officials said.

    Ukraine’s presidential office said in its morning update yesterday that cities and villages in seven Ukrainian regions were shelled in the past day. Most of the civilian deaths occurred in Donetsk province, where fighting is ongoing. Seven civilians were killed there, including a child, the presidential office said.

    A man stands in a crater to show its depth after a Russian attack in the Saltivka district in Kharkiv, Ukraine. PHOTO: AP

    Ten cities and villages came under shelling in Donetsk, and 35 buildings were destroyed, including a school, a vocational college and a hospital, officials said.

    Donetsk is part of the Donbas, a mostly Russian-speaking industrial area where Ukraine’s most experienced soldiers are concentrated.

    Pro-Russian separatists have fought Ukrainian forces and controlled much of the Donbas for eight years. Russian President Vladimir Putin recognised the independence of two self-proclaimed republics there just before Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.

    Putin on Monday claimed victory in Luhansk, the other province constituting the Donbas, after Ukrainian forces withdrew from the last city they controlled there. The governor of Luhansk, Serhiy Haidai, denied on Wednesday that the Russians had completely captured the province.

    In Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, a boarding school was hit, but no one was injured.

    The Kharkiv region, which lies along the border with Russia, is under daily shelling, and two civilians were killed there over the past 24 hours.

    The Ukrainian military said yesterday that Russian forces also carried out shelling and helicopter strikes in the Sumy region in the northeast.

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