KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russian forces on Thursday launched massive missile strikes on Ukraine’s Kyiv and Chernihiv regions, areas that have not been targeted for weeks, while Ukrainian officials announced an operation aimed at liberating an occupied region in the south of the country.
Kyiv regional governor Oleksiy Kuleba said on Telegram that a settlement in the region’s Vyshgorod district was targeted early Thursday morning; an “infrastructure object” has been hit. It was not immediately clear if there were any casualties.
Chernihiv Governor Vyacheslav Chaus at the same time reported that several missiles were fired from the territory of Belarus at the community of Honcharivska.
Russian troops withdrew from the Kyiv and Chernihiv regions months ago, failing to capture them. The renewed strikes on the areas come a day after the leader of pro-Kremlin separatists in the east, Denis Pushilin, publicly called on Russian forces to “liberate Russian cities founded by the Russian people – Kyiv, Chernihiv, Poltava, Odessa, Dnipropetrovsk, Kharkiv, Zaporizhzhia, Lutsk.
Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, was also shelled overnight, its mayor Ihor Terekhov said. The southern town of Mykolaiv also came under fire, and one person was injured.
Meanwhile, the Ukrainian army continued to counterattack in the occupied southern region of Kherson, striking a key bridge over the Dnieper on Wednesday.
Ukrainian media quoted Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovich on Thursday as saying that the operation to liberate Kherson “has already begun”. Arestovich said Kyiv forces planned to isolate Russian troops there and leave them three options: “retreat, if possible, surrender or be destroyed.”
Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, said in a televised address on Wednesday that he was “cautious” in assessing the timing of a possible counteroffensive. “I really wish it was much faster,” he said, adding that “the enemy is now concentrating the maximum number (of forces) precisely in the direction of Kherson.”
“A very large-scale movement of their troops has begun, they are gathering additional forces,” Danilov warned.
The British army estimated Thursday that the counter-offensive of Ukraine in Kherson “is gaining momentum”.
“Their forces have most likely established a bridgehead south of the Ingulets River, which forms the northern border of Russian-occupied Kherson,” Britain’s Ministry of Defense said on Thursday.
He added that Ukraine used its new long-range artillery to damage at least three of the bridges over the Dnieper, “which Russia relies on to supply areas under its control.” The 1,000-metre-long Antonivsky Bridge, which Ukrainian forces hit on Wednesday, is likely to be “unusable”, the UK Ministry of Defense has concluded.
The Huffington Gt