Ukrainian military and local officials said Russian forces launched attacks on two major cities in the eastern Donetsk region on Saturday and continued rocket and shelling attacks on other Ukrainian cities, including one close to Europe’s largest nuclear power plant.
Both the cities of Bakhmut and Avdivka have been considered major targets of Russia’s ongoing offensive in Ukraine’s east, with analysts saying Moscow needs to take on Bakhmut if it is to advance on the regional centers of Slovak and Kramatorsk.
“In the Donetsk direction, the enemy is conducting an offensive, concentrating its main efforts on the Bakhmut and Avdivka directions. It uses ground attack and military aviation,” the General Staff of Ukraine said on Facebook.
The last Russian attack on Sloviask took place on 30 July, but Ukrainian forces are strengthening their positions around the city in anticipation of new fighting.
“I think it will not be quiet for long. Eventually, there will be an attack,” Colonel Yuri Bereza, the head of the Volunteer National Guard regiment, told the Associated Press.
Five civilians were killed and 14 others injured in Russian shelling in the Donetsk region on the last day, Donetsk Governor Pavlo Kyrilenko wrote on Telegram on Saturday, adding that two people were killed in Poprony, and Avdivka, Soledar and One person each died in Pervomsky.
The governor of the East Dnipropetrovsk region said three civilians were injured when a Russian rocket hit a residential area in Nikopol, a town across the Dnieper River. From Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station, The nuclear plant has been under Russian control since it was confiscated by Moscow troops early in the war.
“After midnight, Russian forces attacked the Nikopol area with (Soviet-era) Grad rockets and the Krivy Rih area from barrel artillery,” Valentin Reznichenko wrote on Telegram.
Enerhoatum, a Ukrainian state enterprise, said on Friday that Russian rockets damaged plant facilities, including a nitrogen-oxygen unit and a high-voltage power line. Local Russian-appointed officials acknowledged the damage, but blamed Ukrainians for it.
Another Russian missile attack damaged unspecified infrastructure in the regional capital Zaporizhzhya overnight. On Thursday, Russia fired 60 rockets at Nikopol, damaging 50 residential buildings in the city of 107,000 and leaving residents without electricity.
The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Grossi, warned this week that the situation at the Zaporizhzhya plant was getting more dangerous by the day.
“Every principle of nuclear security has been violated”, he said. “What is at stake is very serious.”
He expressed concern over the way the plant was operated and the danger posed by the ongoing fighting around it. Experts from the US-based Institute for the Study of War said Russia was deliberately shelling the region, “putting Ukraine in a difficult position.”
The Ukrainian company that operates the nuclear power station said on Saturday that Russian troops were using the basement of the plant to hide from Ukrainian shelling and prevented its Ukrainian workers from going there.
“Ukrainian personnel do not yet have access to these complexes, so in the event of new shelling, people have no shelter and are in danger,” Enerhotom said on its Telegram channel.