May 28, 2023

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Russia strikes residential buildings in southern Ukraine and warns of an escalation of the conflict in Ukraine

Under pressure in the south of Ukraine, Russia on Sunday launched missiles and drones on Nikolaev (Mikolaiv), under Ukrainian control.

Russia destroyed a block of flats in the shipyard town, located near the frontline, and warned that the war was heading for a “uncontrollable escalation“, reports Reuters, quoted by Agerpres.

Nikolaev is about 35 km northwest of occupied Kherson, a region in the south that is the scene of a major offensive by Ukrainian forces to recapture the territory captured by Russia shortly after the start of the invasion on February 24.

The Russian defense minister claims in a conversation with his French counterpart that Ukraine could use a “dirty bomb”

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, whom Russian nationalists hold responsible for Moscow’s failures in the war, evoked “rapid deterioration of the situation“in the course of telephone conversations with his French and Turkish counterparts, the Russian Ministry of Defense indicated.

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Shoigu said Ukraine could escalate the conflict with a “dirty bomb,” conventional explosives mixed with radioactive materials, without providing evidence. Ukraine does not have nuclear weapons, while Russia has said it could protect Russian territory with its nuclear arsenal, Reuters notes.

In a conventional Russian attack on Sunday, a rocket strike destroyed the top floor of a building in Nikolaev, sending shrapnel and debris onto a square and into neighboring buildings, where windows shattered and walls cracked. Several cars were crushed by the debris, but no deaths were recorded.

At the same time, Ukraine shot down 14 droneskamikaze‘ Russians over Nikolaev during the night, regional governor Vitali Kim said on Telegram. The drones are designed to explode on impact and have damaged Ukraine’s energy infrastructure this month.

Kim said Russia had attacked with S-300 missiles, and one of them hit the five-story building.

Russian troops have withdrawn from some sectors of the front in recent weeks, and occupation authorities are evacuating civilians deep into Russian-controlled territory on the east bank of the Dnieper, ahead of an expected battle for Kherson, the regional capital on the west bank of the the river. Kherson is a gateway to Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014.

A man was killed and three others injured after an explosion in the city

Russian authorities in Kherson said one man was killed and three others injured after an explosion in the city, an official Russian news agency reported. Emergency services indicated that an improvised explosive device had exploded near a car in the city.

Reuters was unable to verify either the Kherson attack or Kim’s report on Russian missiles and drones.

Ukraine’s advance in recent weeks around Kherson and in the north-east of the country has been met with an intensification of Russian missile and drone attacks against civilian infrastructure, destroying around 40% of Ukraine’s energy system before winter arrives.

Russia and Ukraine accuse each other of planning to blow up the Nova Kahovka dam, which could flood much of southern Ukraine, including Kherson.

Neither side presented evidence to support their claims about the dam, which supplies water to Crimea and the Russian-controlled Zaporozhye nuclear power plant.

In Kherson, occupation authorities have ordered the evacuation of civilians, another sign of the problems Russia faces in what Moscow calls “special military operation” in Ukraine.

Thousands of civilians left Kherson after warnings of a Ukrainian offensive to retake the city.

The Ukrainian army said it was advancing south, taking control of at least two villages that the Russians had abandoned.

As the war enters its ninth month and winter approaches, an energy and humanitarian crisis looms on the horizon in Ukraine.

More than 1 million people are deprived of electricity, said presidential advisor Kirilo Tymoshenko.

Moscow has admitted that it targeted energy infrastructure, but denies that it also targeted civilians, according to Reuters.

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