Russia said Ukrainian artillery hit a Russian town for a third time this week and drones struck two oil refineries in an uptick in attacks on Russian territory as Ukraine prepares a Western-backed push to end Russia’s invasion.
Inside Ukraine, Russian-installed officials said five people had been killed in Ukrainian army shelling of a Russian-occupied village in the east, where Russia has fought months of bloody and inconclusive battles to try to seize more territory.
There was no immediate comment from Ukraine on the Russian reports, in a week when the two countries accused each other of spreading terror in their capitals with air strikes.
Thousands of civilians have been killed in Ukraine and towns and cities laid to waste since Moscow’s forces invaded 15 months ago, but Tuesday marked only the second time Moscow had come under direct fire – from a flurry of drones – although oil and military facilities elsewhere in Russia have been hit.
In the Russian town of Shebekino, two of four wounded people were hospitalised and shells damaged an apartment building, four homes and a school as well as power lines, regional governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said.
Gladkov said on Saturday that he had come under artillery fire when trying to enter the town, about 7 km (4.5 miles) north of the border with Ukraine and that two industrial facilities were hit there on Monday.
Both sides say they are targeting the buildup of each other’s forces and military equipment ahead of Ukraine’s counteroffensive, which it says will come in days or weeks, to try to drive Russian forces out of its east and south.
Germany, once Russia’s biggest energy market, reiterated that it deemed such Ukrainian attacks on Russian soil legitimate in terms of international law, and announced a sharp downgrading of diplomatic representation in both Russia and Germany.
Russian-installed officials in Ukraine’s eastern Luhansk region – one of four Moscow claims to have annexed – said Ukraine had killed five people and wounded 19 in a rocket attack on a farm in the village of Karpaty.
Ukraine’s general staff said its forces had fended off 22 Russian attacks in eastern Ukraine over the past day and Ukrainian aircraft had carried out 11 strikes on Russian personnel and military equipment, without specifying where.
Russia’s defence ministry said it had pushed Ukrainian forces back around two settlements in Donetsk province, part of a 1,000-km (620-mile) front line that has barely moved despite months of fighting that has cost tens of thousands of lives.
It also said it had destroyed Ukraine’s “last warship” during a missile strike on the Black Sea port of Odesa, without providing evidence.
Oleh Chalyk, a spokesperson for the Ukrainian navy, said he would not respond to any assertions made by Russia and the navy would not disclose any information about losses during the war.
Reuters was not able to verify either side’s reports.
Drones attacked two oil refineries 40-50 miles (65-80 km) east of Russia’s biggest oil export terminals on Wednesday, according to Russian officials, who did not attribute blame. They said a fire at one of the terminals was later put out.
The skies over Ukraine were relatively quiet on Tuesday night, after waves of attacks over the previous 24 hours. Russian drone strikes killed one person and wounded four in the capital Kyiv on Tuesday, Ukrainian officials said.
Ukrainian drones struck wealthy districts of Moscow on Tuesday and two people were injured, according to the Russian capital’s mayor. The Kremlin said Moscow’s air defences worked effectively but had room for improvement.
Mykhailo Podolyak, a Ukrainian presidential aide, denied Kyiv was directly involved but said “we are pleased to watch events” and forecast more such strikes.
WAR OF WORDS
Russia’s ambassador to Washington accused it of encouraging Kyiv to attack after the White House had said it was gathering information on the Moscow drone strikes and reiterated that the U.S. does not support attacks inside Russia.
Russia has noted “the lack of condemnation” by the United States and Britain, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly was quoted on Tuesday saying Ukraine had a right to project force beyond its borders, prompting hawkish Russian Security Council Deputy Chairman Dmitry Medvedev to declare British officials legitimate military targets.
The United States, Britain and Germany are among Western nations to have supplied arms to Ukraine on condition it uses them to defend itself and retake Ukrainian territory occupied by Russia, which they say launched an unprovoked war of conquest.
Russia’s invasion, which it calls a “special military operation” to neutralise a threat from Kyiv’s moves towards the West, has caused global economic turmoil and prompted fears that renewed fighting might touch off a nuclear disaster.
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Rafael Grossi laid out five principles at a U.N. Security Council meeting on Tuesday to try to safeguard the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine.
Neither Russia nor Ukraine committed to respect them.