POKROVSK, Ukraine (AP) — Russian missiles hit industrial facilities at a strategic city in southern Ukraine Sunday as Moscow continued efforts to expand its gains in the country’s east.
Mykolaiv Mayor Oleksandr Senkevych said that the Russian missiles struck an industrial and infrastructure facility in the city, a key shipbuilding center in the estuary of the Southern Bug river. There was no immediate information about casualties.
Mykolaiv has faced regular Russian missile strikes in recent weeks as the Russians have sought to soften Ukrainian defenses.
The Russian military has declared a goal to cut off Ukraine’s entire Black Sea coast all the way to the Romanian border. If successful, such an effort would deal a crushing blow to the Ukrainian economy and trade and allow Moscow to secure a land bridge to Moldova’s separatist region of Transnistria, which hosts a Russian military base.
Early in the campaign, the Ukrainian forces fended off Russian attempts to capture Mykolaiv, which sits near the Black Sea Coast between Russia-occupied Crimea and the main Ukrainian port of Odesa.
Since then, the Russian troops have halted their attempts to advance in the city but have continued to pummel both Mykolaiv and Odesa with regular missile strikes.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Lt. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said Sunday that Russian missiles destroyed a depot for anti-ship Harpoon missiles delivered to Ukraine by NATO allies, a claim that couldn’t be independently confirmed.
The Russians also sought to reinforce their positions in the Kherson region near Crimea and part of the northern Zaporizhzhia region that they seized in the opening stage of the conflict, fearing a Ukrainian counteroffensive.
The British Defense Ministry said Sunday that Russia is moving manpower and equipment between Kherson, Mariupol and Zaporizhzhia. It said the Russians also are increasing their security measures around Melitopol.
It added: “Given the pressures on Russian manpower, the reinforcement of the south whilst the fight for the Donbas continues indicates the seriousness with which Russian commanders view the threat.”
For now, the Russian military has focused its efforts on trying to take control of Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland of Donbas, where the most capable and well-equipped Ukrainian forces are located.
Ukraine says its forces still retain control of two small villages in the Luhansk region, one of the two provinces that make up the Donbas, and are successfully fending off Russian attempts to advance deeper into the second one, the Donetsk region.
The Ukrainian military’s General Staff said Sunday that Ukrainian troops thwarted Russian attempts to advance toward Sloviansk, the key Ukrainian stronghold in Donetsk, and other attacks elsewhere in the region.
During a visit to the front lines Saturday, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu ordered “to further intensify the actions of units in all operational areas.”
The Russian military said it has struck Ukrainian troops and artillery positions in Donbas in the latest series of strikes, including a U.S.-supplied HIMARS multiple rocket launcher. The Russian claims couldn’t be independently verified.
While focusing on Donbas, the Russians hit areas all across the country with missile strikes.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged Ukrainians not to fall for Russia’s attempts to scare them with warnings of horrendous missile attacks to come, which he said were aimed at dividing Ukrainian society.
“It’s clear that no Russian missiles or artillery will be able to break our unity or lead us away from our path” toward a democratic, independent Ukraine,” he said in his nightly video address to the nation. “And it is also clear that Ukrainian unity cannot be broken by lies or intimidation, fakes or conspiracy theories.”
On Thursday, a Russian missile strike killed at least 24 people — including three children — and wounded more than 200 in Vinnytsia, a city southwest of Kyiv, the capital, far from the front lines that had largely been spared from the Russian bombardment before. Three of those missing after the attack were found alive in the rubble Saturday and one person remained missing, the emergency service said Saturday.
On Sunday, relatives and friends attended a mourning ceremony for Liza, a 4-year-old girl killed in a strike. The girl with Down syndrome was en route to see a speech therapist with her mother in central Ukraine when the missile landed. Her mother, Iryna Dmytrieva, was among the scores injured.
“She remembered that she was reaching for her daughter, and Liza was already dead,” Iryna’s aunt, Tetiana Dmytrysyna, told The Associated Press. “The mother was robbed of the most precious thing she had.”
In the Kharkiv region, at least three civilians were killed and three more were injured Saturday in a pre-dawn Russian strike on the city of Chuhuiv, which is only 120 kilometers (75 miles) from the Russian border, the police said.
Lyudmila Krekshina, who lives in the apartment building that was hit, said a husband and wife were killed, and also an elderly man who lived on the ground floor.
Another resident said she was lucky to have survived.
“I was going to run and hide in the bathroom. I didn’t make it and that’s what saved me,” said Valentina Bushuyeva. Pointing up at her destroyed apartment, she said: “There’s the bathroom — explosion. Kitchen — half a room. And I survived because I stayed put.”