The Russian army has set itself the goal of cutting off the entire Ukrainian coast from the Black Sea to the Romanian border. If successful, such an effort would deal a crushing blow to Ukraine’s economy and trade and allow Moscow to secure a land bridge to the breakaway Moldovan region of Transnistria, home to a Russian military base.
Early in the campaign, Ukrainian forces repelled Russian attempts to capture Mykolaiv, which lies near the Black Sea coast between Russian-occupied Crimea and the main Ukrainian port of Odessa.
Since then, Russian troops have halted their attempts to advance into the city but have continued to hit both Mykolaiv and Odessa with regular missile strikes.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Lt. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said on Sunday that Russian missiles destroyed a depot of Harpoon anti-ship missiles delivered to Ukraine by NATO allies, a claim which could not be independently confirmed.
The Russians also sought to reinforce their positions in the Kherson region near Crimea and part of the northern Zaporizhzhia region which they seized at the start of the conflict, fearing a Ukrainian counter-offensive.
Britain’s Ministry of Defense said on Sunday that Russia was moving manpower and equipment between Kherson, Mariupol and Zaporizhzhia. He said the Russians were also increasing their security measures around Melitopol.
He added: “Given the pressures on Russian manpower, the strengthening of the south as the struggle for Donbass continues indicates the seriousness with which Russian commanders view the threat.”
For now, the Russian military has focused its efforts on trying to take control of the industrial heartland of eastern Ukraine, the Donbass, where the most capable and well-equipped Ukrainian forces are located.
Ukraine says its forces still retain control of two small villages in the Luhansk region, one of the two provinces that make up Donbass, and are successfully repelling Russian attempts to advance deeper into the second, the region from Donetsk.
The General Staff of the Ukrainian army said on Sunday that Ukrainian troops had thwarted Russian attempts to advance towards Sloviansk, the main Ukrainian stronghold in Donetsk, and other attacks elsewhere in the region.
During a visit to the front lines on Saturday, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu ordered “to further intensify the actions of units in all operational areas”.
The Russian military said it hit Ukrainian troops and artillery positions in Donbass in the latest series of strikes, including a US-supplied HIMARS multiple rocket launcher. The Russian claims could not be independently verified.
While focusing on Donbass, the Russians hit areas across the country with missile strikes.
President Volodymyr Zelensky urged Ukrainians not to fall for Russia’s attempts to scare them with warnings of horrific missile attacks to come, which he said were aimed at dividing Ukrainian society.
“It is clear that no Russian missile or artillery will be able to break our unity or lead us away from our path ‘to a democratic and independent Ukraine,’ he said in his nightly video address to the nation. equally clear that Ukrainian unity cannot be broken by lies or intimidation, forgeries or conspiracy theories.”
A Russian missile strike on Thursday killed at least 24 people – including three children – and injured more than 200 in Vinnytsia, a town southwest of the capital Kyiv, far from frontlines that had been largely spared by the Russian bombardments before. Three of those missing after the attack were found alive in the rubble on Saturday and one person remains missing, the emergency service said on Saturday.
On Sunday, relatives and friends attended a mourning ceremony for Liza, a 4-year-old girl killed in a strike. The young girl with Down syndrome was on her way to see a speech therapist with her mother in central Ukraine when the missile landed. His mother, Iryna Dmytrieva, was among dozens injured.
“She remembered that she was looking for her daughter and Liza was already dead,” Iryna’s aunt, Tetiana Dmytrysyna, told The Associated Press. “The mother was stripped of the most precious thing she had.”
In the Kharkiv region, at least three civilians were killed and three others were injured in a pre-dawn Russian strike on Saturday on the town of Chuhuiv, which is only 120 kilometers (75 miles) from the Russian border, police said.
Lyudmila Krekshina, who lives in the building that was hit, said a husband and wife were killed, along with an elderly man who lived on the ground floor.
Another resident said she was lucky to have survived.
“I was going to run and hide in the bathroom. I didn’t survive and that’s what saved me,” Valentina Bushuyeva said. Pointing to her destroyed apartment, she said, “Here’s the bathroom—explosion Kitchen—half a room And I survived because I stayed put.