Russia attacks Kyiv region for first time in weeks

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russian forces launched a missile attack on the Kyiv region for the first time in weeks Thursday and also pounded the northern Chernihiv region, in what Ukraine said was revenge for standing up to the Kremlin.

Ukrainian officials, meanwhile, have announced a counteroffensive to retake the occupied Kherson region in the south of the country, territory seized by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s forces at the start of the war.

Russia attacked the Kyiv region with six missiles launched from the Black Sea, hitting a military unit in the village of Liutizh on the outskirts of the capital, according to Oleksii Hromov, a senior Ukrainian general staff official.

He said the attack destroyed one building and damaged two others, and that Ukrainian forces also shot down one of the missiles in the town of Bucha.

Fifteen people were injured in the Russian strikes, including five civilians, Kyiv Regional Governor Oleksiy Kuleba said.

Kuleba linked the assaults to Statehood Day, a commemoration President Volodymyr Zelensky instituted last year and which Ukraine observed on Thursday.

“Russia, with the help of missiles, is ramping up in revenge for the widespread popular resistance, which the Ukrainians were able to organize precisely because of their statehood,” Kuleba told Ukrainian television. “Ukraine has already violated Russia’s plans and will continue to defend itself.”

Chernihiv regional governor Vyacheslav Chaus reported that the Russians also fired missiles from the territory of Belarus at the village of Honcharivska. The Chernihiv region had not been targeted for weeks.

Russian troops withdrew from Kyiv and Chernihiv regions months ago after failing to capture either. The resumption of strikes comes a day after the leader of pro-Kremlin separatists in the east, Denis Pushilin, urged Russian forces to “liberate Russian cities founded by the Russian people – Kyiv, Chernihiv, Poltava, Odessa, Dnipropetrovsk , Kharkiv, Zaporizhzhia, Lutsk.”

Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, also came under a barrage of shelling overnight, according to the mayor. Authorities said a policeman was killed in the Russian shelling of a power plant in the Kharkiv region.

The southern town of Mykolaiv also came under fire, and one person was reportedly injured.

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian army maintained a counterattack in the Kherson region, disabling a key bridge on the Dnieper on Wednesday.

Ukrainian media quoted Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovich as saying that the operation to liberate Kherson was underway, with Kyiv forces planning to isolate Russian troops and leave them three options: “retreat, if possible, surrender or be destroyed”.

Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, said the Russians were concentrating maximum forces in the direction of Kherson, warning: “A very large-scale movement of their troops has begun.”

The British military said Ukraine used its new Western-supplied long-range artillery to damage at least three of the bridges over the Dnieper that Russia relies on to supply its forces.

Ukraine’s presidential office said Thursday morning that Russian shelling of towns and villages over the past 24 hours had killed at least five civilians, all in the eastern province of Donetsk, and injured nine.

Fighting in recent weeks has been concentrated in Donetsk province. It has intensified in recent days as Russian forces appeared to be emerging from a reported “operational pause” after capturing neighboring Luhansk province.

Ukrainian emergency authorities said two civilians were killed in a Russian shelling of the city of Toretsk. A missile hit a residential building early Thursday morning, destroying two floors, officials said.

“Once again the terror of the missiles. We will not give up. … We will not be intimidated,” Donetsk regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said on Telegram.

Military analysts believe Russian forces are focusing their efforts on capturing the towns of Bakhmut and Siversk in Donetsk province.

Zelenskyy instituted Statehood Day to remind Ukrainians of the country’s history as an independent state. The commemoration honors Prince Vladimir, who made Christianity the official religion of the medieval state of Kyivan Rus more than 1,000 years ago.

“You could say that for us, every day is a state day,” the president said in a speech on State Day.

“We are fighting every day for everyone on the planet to finally understand: We are not a colony, not an enclave, not a protectorate, not a province, not an eyalet, not a crown land, not a part of foreign empires, nor part of a country. , not a federal republic, not an autonomy, not a province, but a free, independent, sovereign, indivisible and independent state,” Zelenskyy said.

The Kremlin also claims the heritage of Kyivan Rus. In 2016 Putin erected a monument to Prince Vladimir near the Kremlin.

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Follow AP coverage of the Russian-Ukrainian War at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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