Russian missiles continued to rain down on Ukraine as G7 leaders wrapped up their summit in Madrid, where they condemned Russia’s invasion and pledged support for Kyiv.
In the southern Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv, Vitaliy Kim, the local mayor, said a Russian missile strike had killed at least three people when it hit a residential building. Moscow admitted to the strike on the city but said its forces had hit what it called a training base for “foreign mercenaries” in the region.
Video footage released by Ukrainian officials showed smoke rising from a four-storey building with its upper floor largely destroyed.
In Kryvyi Rih, central Ukraine, the local governor said Russia had also increased its shelling there in the past few days.
“Several villages have been wiped from the face of the earth,” said the governor, Oleksandr Vilkul.
A senior military official said Russia had fired about 130 missiles at Ukraine within the past four days – including strikes on a shopping mall in Kremenchuk, central Ukraine, an attack that killed 20 civilians – as the war shows no sign of abating.
“The enemy demonstrates remarkable audacity in inflicting missile strikes on the territory of our state,” Valerii Zaluzhnyi, the commander-in-chief of Ukraine’s armed forces, said on Wednesday.
Recent Russian strikes on civilian areas have drawn condemnation from western leaders, while the pope called the strike on the shopping mall in Kremenchuk the latest in a string of “barbarous attacks”.
Russia has frequently denied targeting civilian areas but according to the UN, at least 4,700 civilians have been killed since the start of the war, a number of Ukrainian officials believe to be several times higher.
Addressing the UN security council remotely on Tuesday, Zelenskiy urged the council to expel Russia from the UN, describing it as a “terrorist state”.
In its daily intelligence briefing, Britain’s Ministry of Defense said it anticipated Russia would continue launching strikes across the country in an effort to hurt Ukraine’s efforts of resupplying its forces on the frontlines.
“Russia’s shortage of more modern precision strike weapons and the professional shortcomings of their targeting planners will highly likely result in further civilian casualties,” the briefing added.
Moscow has stepped up its attacks as its forces make slow but steady progress in the industrial east of the country, where fighting has been raging for the hilltop city of Lysychansk, the last Ukrainian stronghold in the Luhansk oblast.
Serhiy Haidai, the governor of Ukraine’s eastern Luhansk oblast, said the city was under heavy shelling on Wednesday as Russian troops were trying to encircle it.
“The Russians have a quantitative advantage in both personnel and equipment,” he said, adding that fighting was going on “everywhere” in the battle for the key city.
If Lysychansk falls, the entire region of Luhansk, which along with Donetsk makes up the eastern Donbas region, would come under Russian control, marking a major breakthrough for Vladimir Putin’s troops in its efforts to control Donbas.
In total, Russian forces occupy about 20% of Ukraine’s territory.
On Wednesday, the Moscow-imposed military-civilian administration in the Kherson region said it had begun preparations for a referendum on joining Russia, with the vote planned in “the coming half-year,” according to Kirill Stremousov, deputy head of the Russian -backed administration.
While the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, said initially the goal of what Moscow refers to as its “special military operation” was not to annex Ukrainian territories, he has recently shifted his rhetoric.
In a speech earlier this month, Putin said he would “respect any choice” the Russian-occupied territories would make, adding that the entire former Soviet Union was “historical Russia”.
Meanwhile, the Indonesian president, Joko Widodo, arrived in Kyiv on Wednesday morning, where he is meeting the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, in a visit that is intended to alleviate the global food crisis.
President Widodo, better known as Jokowi, and his wife traveled to Kyiv by overnight train from the city of Przemyśl in Poland after attending the G7 summit in Germany earlier this week.
Prior to the conflict, Indonesia was one of the largest importers of Ukrainian wheat. Widodo has said he is devoted to raising the issue of rising food and energy prices with Zelenskiy, as millions of tonnes of grains remain stuck in Ukraine due to the blocked Black Sea ports including the port in occupied Mariupol.
After his meeting with Zelenskiy, Widodo will travel to Moscow, where he has vowed to urge Putin to agree to a ceasefire.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism