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Ukraine rocked by deadly Russian attacks, EU prepares for gas cuts

#Ukraine #rocked #deadly #Russian #attacks #prepares #gas #cuts

Ukraine said Monday Russian forces are preparing to expand an offensive to key cities in the eastern Donbass region, as three people died in rocket attacks on Kharkiv, the country’s second-biggest city.

The attacks in Kharkiv, northeastern Ukraine, came as Europe braced for deeper cuts in gas supplies from Russia.

Kharkiv regional chief Oleg Synyegubov said the Russian fire hit “civilian facilities – a shopping mall and civilian houses”.

“Thirty-one people were taken to hospital, including two children, aged four and 16. The victims mainly suffer from shrapnel-related injuries. Three people died,” he said in a statement.

In eastern Ukraine – the flashpoint of a attritional Russian offensive – 20 people died in strikes in the Donetsk region’s town of Khasiv Yar over the weekend, Ukrainian officials said.

According to rescuers, they managed to establish verbal contact with two people trapped under the remains of a residential building.

“Anyone ordering such attacks, anyone carrying them out on our ordinary cities and residential areas, is killing with absolute intent,” President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said late Sunday, vowing the perpetrators would be brought to justice.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov, meanwhile, claimed Monday that “more than 300” Ukrainian militants were killed in a Russian attack near Chasiv Yar, without giving a date.

– ‘No safe place’ –

After fighting long battles to capture areas east of Lugansk, Russian troops are now concentrating on Donetsk to take control of the entire Donbass.

The region has been under constant shelling, with authorities reporting nearly 50 attacks on infrastructure, but Russian ground attacks have been all but halted, the Ukrainian army said on Monday.

However, it warned that Russian troops are likely planning to launch some of their heaviest attacks yet in the Donetsk region.

“There are signs that enemy units are preparing to intensify hostilities towards Kramatorsk and Bakhmut,” it said, referring to two capitals that are still under Ukrainian control.

Moscow’s slow but steady advance east – despite fierce Ukrainian resistance, emboldened by recent shipments of western-supplied artillery – contrasts with its failure to capture the capital, Kyiv, early in the invasion.

In Bucha, a town outside of Kyiv, 36-year-old web designer Maxim sat with his family at a table in front of his house, where just three months ago Russian soldiers ransacked his house and slept in his children’s room.

“In this atmosphere I feel that nothing can happen and that life is normal,” he said.

“But we know there is a war and there is no safe place in Ukraine right now.”

Western weapons — particularly long-range precision artillery — “are already changing the course of the war,” said Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council Oleksiy Danilov.

He credited the guns with causing “demoralization, demilitarization and de-occupation” of Russian-held territory.

Observers of the conflict have reported long-range attacks on Russian ammunition and weapons depots dozens of kilometers behind the front lines.

– gas worries –

Still, the impact of the conflict was felt across western Europe on Monday, when Russian gas giant Gazprom began more than a week of routine maintenance on its Nord Stream 1 pipeline.

Germany and other European countries are eyeing energy supplies with concern after Italy’s Eni and Austria’s OMV said Gazprom is continuing to cut gas supplies.

Eni said flows fell to 21 million cubic meters (741 million cubic feet) per day compared to a recent average of about 32 million, while OMV said there will be a 70 percent reduction.

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, Germany suspended certification of a second pipeline, Nord Stream 2, amid growing fears over Europe’s massive reliance on Russian gas.

Russian and Belarusian leaders, meanwhile, on Monday discussed possible joint action against neighboring Lithuania over its “illegal” transit restrictions affecting Moscow’s Kaliningrad exclave, the Kremlin said.

The Baltic country last month began restricting the transit of EU-sanctioned goods to Kaliningrad, a Russian region between NATO members Lithuania and Poland, infuriating Moscow.

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