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Sunday 24 September 2023 Dublin: 16°C
ABACA/PA Images A hole in the wall of a multi-story residential building damaged as a result of russian shelling in Stepnohirsk, Vasylivskyi district
# Severodonetsk
22 people wounded in airstrikes on western Ukraine as Russia continues push on Severodonetsk
The attack comes as Russian troops continue to push for control of Severodonetsk in the east.

AT LEAST 22 people were wounded when Russia struck the western Ukrainian town of Chortkiv, the regional governor said today.

The strike was a rare attack in the west of the country.

“Yesterday at 19.46 (16.45 GMT) Chortkiv was hit by four missiles, all fired from the Black Sea,” Volodymyr Trush said in a Facebook post.

He said all 22 people wounded, who included seven women and a 12-year-old, had been hospitalised.

Trush, governor of the Ternopil region where Chortkiv is located, said “a military installation was partially destroyed” in the attack “and residential buildings were damaged”.

Chortkiv, which was home to nearly 30,000 people before the Russian invasion, is located 140 kilometres north of the border with Romania and 200 kilometres southeast of Lviv, the largest city in western Ukraine.

Unlike eastern and southern Ukraine, which have borne the brunt of Russian firepower since Moscow invaded on 24 February, the west of the country has only seen sporadic attacks.

Russian strikes in the west tend to target military installations housing weapons and military equipment supplied by Western powers.

Push on Severodonetsk

In attempts to conquer eastern Ukraine, Russian troops have been pushing for control of the key industrial city of Severodonetsk for weeks.

On Sunday, Ukraine’s general staff said Russia was conducting “unsuccessful” assaults on the city, where about 800 civilians have taken refuge in the Azot chemical plant’s bunkers, according to the tycoon whose company owns the facility.

Gaiday said yesterday that the Azot plant had been “shelled intensely for hours” and the city had been “ruined” by Russian forces.

“This is their tactics — people are not needed, the infrastructure is not needed, houses are not needed, everything should be simply ruined,” he said.

The number of civilian victims would be “enormous and terrible”, he added.

Gaiday said Ukrainian fighters in Severodonetsk were winning street battles, but that Russian artillery would then destroy the buildings those fighters were using for cover — “storey by storey”.

In Donetsk, two civilian deaths and 11 injuries were reported across the region on Saturday, its governor said.

According to the area’s military administration, “all major cities in the free territory” of Donetsk “have been without electricity” since yesterday

In the south, a man died in Odessa after coming into contact with an explosive object while swimming at a beach with his wife and son, the regional Ukrainian command said. Visiting beaches there is currently banned due to the risks of mines.

For residents in nearby Mykolaiv, every day brings a brush with death.

Igor Karputov, 31, recalled how his neighbourhood was hit last week, shaking his apartment, and how he helped a bleeding man to an ambulance.

“Then I went to another place which had been hit, where emergency services were already taking care of someone,” he told AFP.

“But they were dead. And the one I had helped died in an ambulance.”

Mykolaiv regional governor Vitaliy Kim stressed the urgent need for international military assistance.

“Russia’s army is more powerful, they have a lot of artillery and ammo… and we are out of ammo,” he said Saturday.

On Sunday, the southern command said the Ukrainian Air Force had destroyed ammunition depots and equipment in three air strikes in the last 24 hours, without naming their locations.

Russian passports issued

In areas now controlled by its forces, Moscow has sought to impose its authority.

Officials in the occupied city of Kherson handed out Russian passports to residents for the first time on Saturday, local news agencies reported.

Russia’s TASS agency said 23 Kherson residents received a Russian passport at a ceremony through a “simplified procedure” allowed by a decree from President Vladimir Putin.

Ukraine has called the passports “legally void”.

EU bid

It comes as European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that the EU would provide a timeline this week on Ukraine’s candidate status bid.

Von der Leyen said talks she held with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Saturday “will enable us to finalise our assessment by the end of next week” — the first time the bloc has publicly given a sense of timing.

Zelenskyy has pressed for rapid admission to the European Union, but officials and leaders in the bloc caution that, even with candidacy status, membership could take years or even decades.

Despite reservations among some member states, EU leaders are expected to approve Ukraine’s candidate status, though with strict conditions attached.

“Russia wants to ruin European unity, wants to leave Europe divided and wants to leave it weak. The entirety of Europe is a target for Russia. Ukraine is only the first stage in this aggression,” Zelenskyy said, warning it was a “decisive time” for his country and the EU.

‘Crisis and famine’

Addressing the Shangri-La Dialogue security summit in Singapore yesterday, Zelenskyy highlighted the dangers of a food crisis posed by Russia’s blockade of Ukrainian Black Sea ports.

He warned of an acute food crisis, adding that the “shortage of foodstuffs will inexorably lead to political chaos”.

Also yesterday, Lugansk regional governor Sergiy Gaiday cited reports of Russians loading trucks with Ukrainian wheat and taking it to Russian-controlled areas.

Before the war, Russia and Ukraine produced 30 percent of the global wheat supply, but grain is stuck in Ukraine’s ports and Western sanctions have disrupted exports from Russia.

At the summit, Zelenskyy urged international pressure to end the blockade, speaking to delegates including Chinese defence minister Wei Fenghe, who on Sunday reiterated Beijing’s position on the crisis.

“On the Ukrainian crisis, China has never provided any material support to Russia,” he said, adding that it supported peace negotiations and hoped “NATO will have talks with Russia”.

© AFP 2022

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