Ukraine war
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In this photo posted by the mayor of Mykolayiv on his Telegram channel, a residential building is seen damaged following night shelling in Mykolaiv, Ukraine on Sunday. Photo: Operational Command South via AP

Russia strikes homes in south Ukraine, warns of escalation

  • Russia fires missiles and drones into Ukrainian-held Mykolayiv, destroying a block of flats, but no fatalities reported
  • Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, in calls with French and Turkish counterparts, warns Ukraine may use a ‘dirty bomb’
Ukraine war
Under pressure in the south of Ukraine, Russia fired missiles and drones into Ukrainian-held Mykolayiv on Sunday, destroying a block of flats in the shipbuilding city near the front and warning the war was trending toward “uncontrolled escalation”.

Mykolayiv lies roughly 35km (22 miles) northwest of the front line to occupied Kherson, the southern region that is the target of a major offensive by Ukrainian forces to retake territory Russia captured soon after the February 24 invasion.

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, who Russian nationalists have blamed for Moscow’s setbacks in the war, discussed the “rapidly deteriorating situation” in calls with his French and Turkish counterparts, the ministry said.

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu (right) and Head of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Russia and First Deputy Defence Minister Valery Gerasimov during a meeting in Moscow in February 2022. Photo: Ap

Shoigu said Ukraine could escalate with a “dirty bomb”, conventional explosives laced with radioactive material, without providing evidence. Ukraine does not possess nuclear weapons, while Russia has said it could protect Russian territory with its nuclear arsenal.

In one conventional Russian attack on Sunday, a missile strike wiped out the top floor of a block of flats in Mykolayiv, propelling shrapnel and debris across a plaza and into neighbouring buildings where windows buckled and walls cracked. Cars were crushed under the rubble. No fatalities were reported.

“After the first blast, I tried to get out, but the door was stuck. After a minute or two, there was a second loud blast. Our door was blown into the corridor,” said Oleksandr Mezinov, 50, who was awoken from his bed by the blasts.

People remove debris at a residential area with a playground hit by shelling in Mykolayiv, southern Ukraine, on Sunday. Photo: EPA-EFE

Ukraine shot down 14 Russian “kamikaze” drones over Mykolayiv overnight, regional governor Vitaliy Kim said on Telegram. The drones are designed to explode on impact and have hammered Ukraine’s energy infrastructure this month.

Kim said Russia also attacked with S-300 missiles, one of which hit the five-storey flat building.

Russian troops have withdrawn from parts of the front in recent weeks and occupation authorities are evacuating civilians deeper into Russian-held territory before an expected battle for Kherson, the regional capital on the west bank of the Dnipro river. Kherson is a gateway to Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014.

Russian-installed authorities in Kherson said one man was killed and three injured after a blast in the city, a Russian state news agency said. An improvised explosive device was detonated near a car in the city, according to emergency services.

Reuters could not verify the attack in Kherson, or Kim’s report on missiles and drones.


Why Russia is using ‘kamikaze drones’ in Ukraine

Why Russia is using ‘kamikaze drones’ in Ukraine

Ukraine’s advances in recent weeks around Kherson and in the country’s northeast have been met with intensifying Russian missile and drone attacks on civilian infrastructure, which have destroyed about 40 per cent of Ukraine’s power system ahead of winter.

Russia and Ukraine have accused each other of planning to blow up the Nova Kakhovka dam, which holds roughly as much water as the Great Salt Lake in the US state of Utah. Breaching it could flood a swathe of southern Ukraine, including Kherson.

Neither side has produced evidence to back up their claims about the dam, which supplies water to Crimea and the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.

Pro-Russians tell Kherson residents to leave now, Ukraine’s energy facilities attacked

In Kherson the occupation authorities instructed civilians to get out, in the latest sign of the problems Russia is facing in what Moscow calls a “special military operation” in Ukraine.

“Due to the tense situation at the front, the increased danger of massive shelling of the city and the threat of terrorist attacks, all civilians must immediately leave the city and cross to the (east) bank of the Dnipro!” occupation authorities posted on Telegram.

Thousands of civilians have left Kherson after warnings of a Ukrainian offensive to recapture the city.

Civilians evacuated from the Russian-controlled city of Kherson walk from a ferry to board a bus heading to Crimea, in the town of Oleshky, on Sunday. Photo: Reuters

At Oleshky on the east bank, people were arriving by boat from Kherson, loaded with boxes, bags and pets. One woman carried a toddler under one arm and a dog under the other.

“I really didn’t want to (leave), I’m still in work,” one resident said. “We wanted to stay here in the region, but now we don’t know.”

Ukraine’s military said it was making gains in the south, taking over at least two villages it said Russia had abandoned.

Reuters could not independently verify the accounts.

Ukraine warns of disaster from attacks on energy facilities, more flee Kherson

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the Russian attacks on energy infrastructure had struck on a “very wide” scale. He pledged his military would improve on an already good record of downing missiles with help from its partners.

With the war about to start its ninth month and winter approaching, the potential for freezing misery loomed.

More than a million people were without power, presidential adviser Kyrylo Tymoshenko said. Strikes could leave Kyiv without power and heat for days or weeks, a city official added.

Moscow has acknowledged targeting energy infrastructure but denies targeting civilians.