Ukraine war: Cities ‘destroyed,’ civilians left without power by Russian strikes

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Putin says ‘no sense’ in mobilizing additional troops for service in Ukraine
WATCH: Putin says 'no sense' in mobilizing additional troops for service in Ukraine – Dec 7, 2022

Russian forces have “destroyed” the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said, while Ukraine’s military on Saturday reported missile, rocket and air strikes in multiple parts of the country that Moscow is trying to conquer after months of resistance.

The latest battles of Russia’s 9 1/2 month war in Ukraine have centered on four provinces that Russian President Vladimir Putin triumphantly– and illegally–claimed to have annexed in late September. The fighting indicates Russia’s struggle to establish control of those regions and Ukraine’s persistence to reclaim them.

An aerial view of Bakhmut, the site of the heaviest battles with the Russian troops, in the Donetsk region, Ukraine, Friday, Dec. 9, 2022. (AP Photo/LIBKOS)

Zelenskyy said the situation “remains very difficult” in several frontline cities in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk provinces. Together, the provinces make up the Donbas, an expansive industrial region bordering Russia that Putin identified as a focus from the war’s outset and where Moscow-backed separatists have fought since 2014.

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“Bakhmut, Soledar, Maryinka, Kreminna. For a long time, there is no living place left on the land of these areas that have not been damaged by shells and fire,” Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address, naming cities that have again found themselves in the crosshairs. “The occupiers actually destroyed Bakhmut, another Donbas city that the Russian army turned into burnt ruins.”

Zelenskyy didn’t specify what he meant by “destroyed” – and some buildings remain standing and residents still mill about in city streets.

The Ukrainian military General Staff reported missile attacks, about 20 airstrikes and more than 60 rocket attacks across Ukraine between Friday and Saturday. Spokesperson Oleksandr Shtupun said the most active fighting was in the Bakhmut district, where more than 20 populated places came under fire. He said Ukrainian forces repelled Russian attacks in Donetsk and neighboring Luhansk.

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Russia’s grinding eastern offensive succeeded in capturing almost all of Luhansk during the summer. Donetsk eluded the same fate, and the Russian military in recent weeks has poured manpower and resources around Bakhmut in an attempt to encircle the city, analysts and Ukrainian officials have said.

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After Ukrainian forces recaptured the southern city of Kherson nearly a month ago, the battle heated up around Bakhmut, demonstrating Putin’s desire for visible gains following weeks of clear setbacks in Ukraine.

Taking Bakhmut would rupture Ukraine’s supply lines and open a route for Russian forces to press on toward Kramatorsk and Sloviansk, key Ukrainian strongholds in Donetsk. Russia has battered Bakhmut with rockets for more than half of the year. A ground assault accelerated after its troops forced the Ukrainians to withdraw from Luhansk in July.

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But some analysts have questioned Russia’s strategic logic in the relentless pursuit to take Bakhmut and surrounding areas that also came under intense shelling in the past weeks, and where Ukrainian officials reported that some residents were living in damp basements.

“The costs associated with six months of brutal, grinding, and attrition-based combat around #Bakhmut far outweigh any operational advantage that the #Russians can obtain from taking Bakhmut,” the Institute for the Study of War, a think tank in Washington, posted on its Twitter feed on Thursday.

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On Friday, Putin lashed out at recent comments by former German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who said a 2015 peace deal for eastern Ukraine negotiated by France and Germany had bought time for Ukraine to prepare for war with Russia this year.

READ MORE: Ukraine continues to pile pressure on retreating Russian forces

That deal was aimed to cool tensions after pro-Russia separatists seized territory in the Donbas a year earlier, sparking a war with Ukrainian forces that ballooned into a war with Russia itself after the Feb. 24 full-scale invasion.

Ukraine’s military on Saturday also reported strikes in other provinces: Kharkiv and Sumy in the northeast, central Ukraine’s Dnipropetrovsk, Zaporizhzhia in the southeast and Kherson in the south. The latter two, along with Donetsk and Luhansk, are the four regions Putin claims are now Russian territory.

All non-critical infrastructure in the Ukrainian port of Odesa was without power after Russia used Iranian-made drones to hit two energy facilities, officials said on Saturday, adding it could take months to repair the damage.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said more than 1.5 million people in the southern port city and surrounding region had no electricity, and he described the situation as very difficult.

Since October, Moscow has been targeting Ukraine’s energy infrastructure with large waves of missile and drone strikes.

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The regional administration said people who relied solely on electricity to power their homes should consider leaving. Officials said Russian strikes hit key transmission lines and equipment in the early hours of Saturday.

“According to preliminary forecasts, it will take much more time to restore energy facilities in the Odesa region than after previous attacks,” the administration said.

“We are talking not about days, but even weeks and possibly even two to three months,” it said in a Facebook post.

Odesa, Ukraine’s largest port city, had a population of over 1 million before Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion.

Kyiv says Russia has launched hundreds of Iranian-made Shahed-136 drones at targets in Ukraine and describes the attacks as war crimes due to their devastating effect on civilian life. Moscow claims they are militarily legitimate.

In a video address, Zelenskiy said there was a significant shortfall in the amount of power being generated.

Ukraine’s prosecutor general’s office said two power facilities in Odesa region were hit by Shahed-136 drones.

Ukraine’s armed forces said on Facebook that 15 drones had been launched against targets in the southern regions of Odesa and Mykolaiv, and 10 had been shot down.

Tehran denies supplying the drones to Moscow. Kyiv and its Western allies say that is a lie.

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Britain’s defense ministry said on Saturday that it believed Iran’s military support for Russia was likely to increase in the coming months, including possible deliveries of ballistic missiles.


— With files from Reuters

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