Blasts Rock Ukraine City as Russian Forces Advance on the Ground

KYIV/SERHIIVKA, Ukraine—Explosions rocked the southern Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv on Saturday, the mayor said, at the end of a week in which Russian missiles have slammed into an apartment block and a shopping mall in other cities, killing dozens of people.

Air raid sirens sounded in the Mykolaiv region, which borders the vital Black Sea port of Odesa.

“There are powerful explosions in the city! Stay in shelters!” Mykolaiv mayor Oleksandr Senkevych wrote on the Telegram messaging app.

The cause of the blasts was not immediately clear, although Russia said on Saturday it had hit army command posts in the area. Reuters could not independently verify the reports.

Kyiv says Moscow has intensified missile attacks on targets far from the frontline and that it has deliberately hit civilian sites while Russian forces have been grinding out gains on the battlefield in the east, pummelling urban areas with artillery.

Russia says it has been aiming at military sites and denies taking aim at civilians. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said, “Russian Armed Forces do not work with civilian targets.”

Russia’s defense ministry said on Saturday it had destroyed Ukrainian army posts in Mykolaiv and the eastern Donbass region with high-precision weapons and hit other military-related sites in the southern Zaporizhzhia region and Kharkiv to the north, Russian news agencies reported.

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A man walks in the rubble near damaged buildings in Bakhmut, Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine, in this still image obtained from a social media video released on July 2, 2022. (National Police of Ukraine/Handout via Reuters)

Putin met Indonesia’s president on Thursday and spoke by phone on Friday to the prime minister of India, promising both major food importers that Russia would continue supplying grain.

As missiles have struck Ukrainian cities, Russian forces in the east have slowly advanced on the ground, raining down shells on Ukrainian forces battling to hold urban centers. Moscow aims to drive Ukraine out of Luhansk and Donetsk Provinces, which make up the industrial region known as Donbass.

Moscow has been on the verge of capturing Luhansk Province since taking the city of Sievierodonetsk last week after some of the heaviest fighting of the war.

Ukraine’s last bastion in Luhansk is Lysychansk, which is close to being encircled under Russian artillery barrages.

The governor of Donetsk region said four civilians were killed by shelling on Friday and 12 injured.

Ukraine’s military reported widespread Russian shelling on Friday, including on Kharkiv in the north and on Ukrainian positions in the border areas of Sumy and Chernihiv.

Zelenskyy said more weapons were needed in eastern and southern Ukraine. The United States said it was sending two NASAMS surface-to-air missile systems, four additional counter-artillery radars, and ammunition in its latest shipment.

By Pavel Polityuk and Iryna Nazarchuk