A Russian missile strike killed three people and wounded 32 in the central Ukrainian city of Kryvyi Rih on Tuesday, authorities said, as air attacks were reported in Kyiv and other cities.
In Kryvyi Rih, the birthplace of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, a five-storey building was destroyed, said the governor of the Dnipropetrovsk region that includes the city.
“According to initial reports, three of its residents died. 25 people were injured,” Serhiy Lysak said on Telegram. “There are still people under the rubble.”
Lysak said three cruise missiles were shot down but others got through.
Air raid alerts were sounded across Ukraine as the capital Kyiv and the northeast city of Kharkiv also came under missile and drone attacks.
“According to initial reports, the enemy used Kh-101/555 cruise missiles,” the Kyiv city military administration said.
“All enemy targets in the airspace around Kyiv were detected and successfully destroyed by the forces and means of air defence,” it said, adding there was no immediate information on any casualties or damage.
The fresh wave of air attacks came after Ukraine claimed to have retaken several villages and made advances in its counter-offensive against Russian forces.
“More terrorist missiles, Russian killers continue their war against residential buildings, ordinary cities and people. Unfortunately, there are dead and wounded,” Zelensky said on Twitter.
“The rescue operation in Kryvyi Rih continues.”
In Kharkiv, civilian infrastructure was hit in a drone attack, said the city’s mayor Ihor Terekhov.
“According to initial reports, a utility company in the Kyivskyi district, as well as a warehouse in Saltivskyi district got damaged. A fire broke out as a result of the explosion on the latter,” he said.
Air alerts were also sounded in the Dnipropetrovsk oblast and the neighboring Donetsk and Poltava regions.
*- ‘Tough’ counter-offensive -*
The wave of overnight strikes comes a day after Zelensky said Ukraine was making small gains in a “tough” counter-offensive.
“The fighting is tough, but we are moving forward, this is very important,” Zelensky said Monday.
“I thank our guys for every Ukrainian flag that is now returning to its rightful place in villages on the newly de-occupied territory,” he said.
Ukraine’s defence minister Ganna Malyar said “seven settlements were liberated” — referring to the villages of Lobkovo, Levadne and Novodarivka in the southern Zaporizhzhia region, which houses Europe’s largest nuclear plant, now under Russian occupation.
Malyar said Ukrainian forces had also regained control of the village of Storozheve in the south of the Donetsk region, near three villages recaptured on Sunday.
“The area of the territory taken under control amounted to 90 square kilometres,” Malyar said.
The Ukrainian defence ministry said its forces had advanced “250 to 700 metres” in the direction of the flashpoint eastern city of Bakhmut.
Russia said Monday that it repelled Ukrainian attacks in the same area in the Donetsk region near Velyka Novosilka.
It also said it fought off Ukrainian attacks around the village of Levadne in the Zaporizhzhia region.
The claims by Moscow and Kyiv could not be verified independently.
“Ukrainian forces made visually verified advances in western Donetsk Oblast and western Zaporizhzhia Oblast, which Russian sources confirmed but sought to downplay,” the US-based Institute for the Study of War said in an analytical note on Monday.
According to military analysts, Ukraine has not yet committed the bulk of its forces in its counter-offensive. It is currently still testing and “shaping” the front with targeted attacks to determine weak points.
*- IAEA head to visit plant -*
French President Emmanuel Macron said the long-awaited campaign, with weapons donated by Western allies, would last weeks if not months.
“We want it to be as successful as possible so that we can then start a negotiation phase in good conditions,” he said in Paris, speaking alongside German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Polish President Andrzej Duda.
Duda said the Western military alliance NATO had to “send a clear signal” about Ukraine’s desperate quest to join the bloc at its next summit on July 11 and 12 in Vilnius.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken voiced hope that the offensive would force Russian President Vladimir Putin into talks about ending its invasion.
He said the United States was “confident that they will continue to have success”.
In Vienna, the International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed that director general Rafael Grossi would arrive in Kyiv on Tuesday to meet Zelensky before heading to the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant “to assess the situation” there.
The Russian-held Kakhovka dam, which was breached last week in an incident blamed by Kyiv on Moscow, forms a reservoir that provides the cooling water for the plant.
The IAEA has warned that the Kakhovka dam disaster which claimed at least 10 lives and has left dozens missing further “(complicated) an already precarious nuclear safety and security situation at the” plant.