Explosions kill three in Russian town near Ukrainian border

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KYIV/KONSTYANTYNIVKA – At least three people have been killed and dozens of homes damaged in the Russian city of Belgorod near the Ukrainian border, the regional governor said on Sunday, as Kyiv acknowledged it could lose its last great stronghold in eastern Ukraine for the benefit of Kremlin forces.

Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov reported a number of explosions in the city of nearly 400,000 people about 40 km (25 miles) north of the border with Ukraine.

At least 11 apartment buildings and 39 houses were damaged, including five destroyed, Gladkov said on the Telegram messaging app.

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Russian lawmaker Andrei Klishas accused Ukraine of bombing Belgorod and called for a military response.

« The death of civilians and the destruction of civilian infrastructure in Belgorod is a direct act of aggression by Ukraine and requires the most severe – including military – response, » Klishas wrote on Telegram.

Moscow has blamed Kyiv for several attacks on Belgorod and other regions bordering Ukraine since Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion. Ukraine did not claim responsibility but described the incidents as revenge and « karma » for the Russian invasion.

There was no immediate reaction from Ukraine to the latest attack and Reuters could not independently verify the Russian accounts.

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Thousands of civilians have been killed and towns razed to the ground since Ukraine invaded in what its Western allies call a war of unprovoked aggression. Russia denies targeting civilians in what President Vladimir Putin calls a « special military operation » to demilitarize and « denazify » its neighbor.

Russia is focused on expelling Ukrainian forces from Lugansk and Donetsk provinces in the Donbass, where Moscow-backed separatists have been fighting Kyiv since Russia’s first military intervention in Ukraine in 2014.

Ukrainian troops on the eastern front lines describe intense artillery barrages on residential areas, especially around Lysychansk, the last holdout town of Luhansk.

Russian forces seized Lysychansk’s sister city, Sievierodonetsk, across the Siverskiy Donets River, last month after some of the heaviest fighting of the war.

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Rodion Miroshnik, ambassador to Russia of the so-called pro-Moscow Lugansk People’s Republic, told Russian television: “Lysychansk has been subdued,” but added: “Unfortunately, he is not released yet.

Russian media showed video of the Lugansk militia marching through the streets of Lysychansk waving flags and cheering, but Ukrainian National Guard spokesman Ruslan Muzychuk told Ukrainian television the city remained in the hands Ukrainians.

« Now there are fierce battles near Lysychansk, but fortunately the city is not surrounded and is under the control of the Ukrainian army, » Muzychuk said.

Reuters could not independently verify reports from the battlefield.

Zelenskiy’s adviser, Oleksiy Arestovych, said Russian forces eventually crossed the Siverskiy Donets River and approached the town from the north.

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« It is indeed a threat. We’ll see. I’m not ruling out one of many outcomes here. Things will become much clearer in a day or two, » he said.

Arestovitch said, however, that taking Lysychansk would strategically complicate things for the Russians, as they would have to concentrate on six major cities in the industrialized eastern Donbass region, distributing their forces more thinly.

He added: « The more Western weapons reach the front, the more the situation changes in favor of Ukraine. » Ukraine has repeatedly demanded more weapons from the West, saying its forces are grossly outgunned.


Away from the fighting in the east, Russia said it hit army command posts in Mykolaiv, near the vital Black Sea port of Odessa, where the mayor reported powerful explosions on Saturday.

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Ukrainian authorities said another missile hit a building near Odessa on Friday, killing at least 21 people. A shopping mall was hit in the central city of Kremenchuk on Monday, killing at least 19 people.

Zelenskiy denounced Friday’s strikes as « conscious, deliberately targeted Russian terror and not some kind of mistake or chance missile strike. »

In his televised address on Saturday, Zelenskiy said it would be a « very difficult road » to victory, but that the Ukrainians must maintain their resolve and inflict losses on « the aggressor…so that every Russian remembers that Ukraine cannot be broken ».

Troops on a break from fighting in Konstyantynivka, a town some 115 km (70 miles) west of Lysychansk, said they managed to keep the besieged town’s supply route open, despite the Russian bombings.

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« We always use the road because we have to, but it’s within artillery range of the Russians, » said one soldier as comrades relaxed nearby, munching on sandwiches or eating ice cream.

“The Russian tactic right now is to bomb any building that we might locate ourselves in. When they’ve destroyed it, they move on to the next one,” he said.

Although beaten in the east, Ukrainian forces made progress elsewhere, including forcing Russia to withdraw from Snake Island, a Black Sea outcrop southeast of Odessa that Moscow captured at the start of the war.

Russia had used Snake Island to blockade Ukraine, one of the world’s largest grain exporters and a major producer of seeds for vegetable oils. The disruptions have helped fuel a spike in global grain and food prices.

Russia, also a major grain producer, attributes the crisis to Western sanctions that are hurting its exports. (Reporting by Reuters bureaus; Writing by David Brunnstrom and Lincoln Feast; Editing by William Mallard)



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