Missiles hit Zelenskyy’s hometown as Ukraine claims counteroffensive gains

A missile strike in Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s hometown killed at least 10 people, marking the latest escalation in Russia’s full-scale invasion as Ukraine’s army claimed its first gains in its south-eastern counteroffensive.

“More terrorist missiles, Russian killers continue their war against residential buildings, ordinary cities and people,” Zelenskyy said on Tuesday about the overnight strikes in Kryviy Rih. His posts on social media included video footage showing a five-storey apartment building ablaze and bombed-out cars in the central industrial city.

“Terrorists will never be forgiven, and they will be held accountable for every missile they launch,” Zelenskyy added.

After an early spring lull, Russia has stepped up its air-strike campaign targeting Ukrainian energy networks and other civilian infrastructure. Kyiv was again targeted in Tuesday’s barrage, but Serhiy Popko, head of the capital’s military administration, said all incoming projectiles were intercepted by air-defence systems.

Ukraine’s air force said that Russian forces fired at least 14 cruise missiles early on Tuesday, adding that 11 of them had been intercepted by defences along with one of several “kamikaze” drones.

In a video post from the bombed-out building, Kryviy Rih’s mayor Oleksander Vilkul said on Telegram that six missiles were fired on his city by “Russist animals”, a term Ukrainians often use to compare Russians to Nazis. “Five locations were hit, none of which are military targets.”

Vilkul said a storage facility housing consumer products was also hit, later adding that at least 10 people had been killed and dozens more injured. Rescue teams were rushing to retrieve people believed to be trapped under the rubble.

For nearly 16 months since Moscow launched its invasion, Ukraine, its western backers and human rights organisations have repeatedly accused Russian forces of conducting indiscriminate strikes on civilian buildings and public infrastructure.

Russian president Vladimir Putin on Monday was shown on video blaming Ukraine’s forces of doing the same on targets in the occupied eastern city of Donetsk — without providing evidence of the attacks.

“I can’t understand in any way why the enemy is striking residential areas,” he said at a ceremony in the Kremlin. “What for? Why? What is the point? [They are hitting] clearly humanitarian facilities. What is the point of this? There is no military point, there is none,” he said with a smirk on his face.

Tuesday’s strikes came days after Ukraine’s army reported its first modest gains in a fresh counteroffensive that aimed to liberate some 18 per cent of territory still occupied by Russian forces in the eastern and southern regions of the country.

Hanna Maliar, Ukraine’s deputy defence minister, said late on Monday that troops had liberated seven occupied villages in the early phase of the counteroffensive.

They include Neskuchne, Blahodatne, Storozheve and Makarivka in southern areas of the eastern Donetsk region. Levadne and Novodarivka, two villages in the adjacent southern Zaporizhzhia region which has been occupied by Russian forces since early last year, were also liberated, as well as Lobkove, a village which is located farther west near the Dnipro river.

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