Russia is stepping up a campaign of long-range missile strikes targeting key infrastructure in Ukraine after suffering major battlefield setbacks that have raised concerns of further escalation by Moscow.
Britain’s Ministry of Defense said on Sunday that Russian strikes had increasingly targeted civilian targets over the past week, even when no immediate military advantage could be seen. The goal, he said, is to “undermine the morale of the Ukrainian people and government”, which has been bolstered by the success of a recent offensive in the northeast of the country.
The Ukrainian breakthrough in the Kharkiv region forced Russian forces to give up more territory in days than they had gained in months of fierce fighting, dramatically changing the momentum of the war.
Since then, Russian missiles have hit a dam, threatening to flood the town of Kryvyi Rih days after power to much of eastern Ukraine was cut off by a strike that disabled the main power plant in the country’s second largest city, Kharkiv. A sustained effort by Russia to destroy Ukrainian power plants, dams, bridges and pipelines could, over time, severely degrade the country’s ability to function, especially as winter approaches.
The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said on Sunday that in the past 24 hours the Russian military launched six missile strikes and 28 airstrikes on military and civilian targets. He said infrastructure was damaged in more than 30 settlements, near front lines and often further into Ukrainian-held territory.
Speaking at a regional summit in Uzbekistan on Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russia had launched several warning strikes in response to Ukraine’s offensive, in which Kyiv recovered some 3 500 square kilometers of territory, and that there may be a more serious response in the future. .
“More recently the Russian Armed Forces launched a few sensitive strikes, we’ll assume this is a warning,” he said. “If the situation continues to evolve in this way, then the response will be more serious.”
The recent strikes came as Ukrainian investigators uncovered evidence of what they say were war crimes in and around the town of Izyum after Russian forces were expelled from most of the region of northeast of Kharkiv. Ukrainian authorities also found what they described as torture chambers there.
Work to exhume more than 400 graves continues, Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said, adding that some of the victims have already been identified. Investigators were hesitant to attribute causes of death to those buried at Izyum, but said some bodies showed signs of torture.
In his evening speech, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky welcomed the planned visit of a United Nations team to the grave located in a forest on the edge of Izyum. There is evidence that Russian soldiers dug in nearby had fired at the graves “just for fun”, he said.
Police in the Kharkiv region have so far documented what they called 241 alleged war crimes committed by the Russian military in towns and villages recaptured from Russian forces.
The Kremlin said little about alleged atrocities in Kharkiv. Leonid Slutsky, head of the Russian parliament’s international affairs committee, dismissed them on Friday as “another low-level provocation and lie, devoid of any originality.”
As concerns grew over what form further Russian strikes could take, President Biden was asked during an interview on CBS’s ’60 Minutes’ what he would tell Mr Putin if he considered leaving. to use chemical or tactical nuclear weapons. “Don’t. Don’t. Don’t. It would change the face of war like nothing since World War II,” Mr Biden said.
Russian officials have repeatedly rejected suggestions that the country might use tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine. If Moscow resorted to the use of unconventional weapons, the American response would be “substantial”, Mr Biden said, although he did not provide further details. “They will become more of an outcast in the world than they ever have been,” he said.
Hundreds of Russian soldiers were taken prisoner during the Kharkiv offensive, Zelensky said in an interview with Reuters. Kyiv will seek to exchange them for Ukrainian prisoners of war, who Mr Zelensky said outnumber the Russians held captive.
—Evan Gershkovich contributed to this article.
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. Russia extends its attacks against of civilian targets Ukraine after of losses on field battle