Russia fires missiles at Ukrainian cities as it retreats on battlefield

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Russia fires missiles at Ukrainian cities as it retreats on battlefield

Russia launched its biggest barrage yet at cities across Ukraine on Tuesday, even as Western leaders condemned Moscow at the G20, and abandoned towns in southern Ukraine hinted that Russian lines might be collapsing even farther.

Ukraine said more than 100 missiles were fired in attacks that struck residential buildings in the capital Kyiv and, elsewhere, attacks on energy facilities that knocked out power. Even neighbouring Moldova suffered power outages after the strikes hit a supply line.

A defiant Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelenskyy shook his fist and declared: “We will survive everything.”

His energy minister said it was “the most massive” bombardment in the nearly nine-month-old Russian invasion.

A view shows the Lviv city centre without electricity after Russian missile strikes on Tuesday. (Vladyslav Musiienko/Reuters)

Russian President Vladimir Putin has not commented on the retreat from Kherson, a southern city that sits on the wide Dnipro River, since his troops pulled out in the face of a Ukrainian offensive. But the stunning scale of Tuesday’s strikes spoke volumes and hinted at anger in the Kremlin.

By striking targets in the late afternoon, not long before dusk began to fall, the Russian military forced rescue workers to labour in the dark and gave repair crews scant time to assess the damage in daylight.

At least a dozen regions reported strikes.

As its battlefield losses mount, Russia has in recent months increasingly resorted to targeting Ukraine’s power grid, seemingly hoping to turn the approach of winter into a weapon by leaving people in the cold and dark.

The attacks followed what had been days of euphoria in Ukraine after one of its biggest military successes so far of the nearly nine-month Russian invasion — the retaking last week of Kherson.


Moscow had said last week it was pulling its troops across the Dnipro River to positions that were easier to defend on the opposite bank, abandoning the only regional capital captured since its invasion in February. Putin had declared only six weeks ago it would be Russian forever.

But video images filmed in the town of Oleshky, across a collapsed bridge from Kherson, appeared to show Russian forces had abandoned bunkers there too. Further east, Russian-installed administrators said they were pulling out civil servants from Nova Kakhovka on the river bank next to a huge, strategic dam.

Natalya Humenyuk, a Ukrainian military spokesperson, said Moscow appeared to be repositioning its artillery 15 to 20 kilometres farther from the river, to protect its guns from Ukrainian counter strikes. Russia had artillery still capable of striking Kherson from those new positions, but “we also have something to answer with,” she said.

‘We will not allow Russia to wait it out’

Zelenskyy told world leaders there would be no let-up in Ukraine’s military campaign to drive Russian troops out of his country.

“We will not allow Russia to wait it out, build up its forces, and then start a new series of terror and global destabilization,” he said in an address by video link to a summit of the G20 big economies in Indonesia. He referred to the grouping as the “G19,” excluding Russia.

“I am convinced now is the time when the Russian destructive war must and can be stopped.”

WATCH | Zelenskyy addresses the ‘G19’:

Zelenskyy urges ‘G19’ to stand up to Russia

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy repeatedly used the number 19 in his video address to world leaders at the G20 summit in Bali, urging them to condemn Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

Zelenskyy likened the recapture of the Kherson to the Allied landings in France on D-Day in the Second World War, saying both were watershed moments on the road to eventual victory.

There were no confirmed reports that Ukrainian troops had crossed the river to pursue the Russians. But some analysts said Ukraine might attempt to press its advantage on the battlefield rather than take a so-called “operational pause” following the advances of recent days.

“Ukraine has the initiative and momentum and is dictating to the Russians where and when the next fight will be,” said Philip Ingram, a former senior British military intelligence officer.

Zelenskyy pitches peace proposal

In his speech, Zelenskyy described a peace proposal under which Russia would withdraw all its forces from Ukraine, free all prisoners and reaffirm Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

He would indefinitely extend a program to safeguard Ukrainian grain exports, and expand it to the port of Mykolaiv, beyond reach of Russian guns after the Kherson advance.

The war was a central focus of the summit, at which Western leaders denounced Moscow. Russia dismissed the criticism as unwarranted politicization. 

Firefighters work to put out a fire in a residential building in Kyiv hit by a Russian missile strike on Tuesday. (Gleb Garanich/Reuters)

Western countries sought a summit declaration that would condemn the war despite Russian opposition and a lack of unanimity. Diplomats circulated a 16-page draft that said: “Most members strongly condemned the war in Ukraine and stressed it is causing immense human suffering and exacerbating existing fragilities in the global economy.”

Russian leadership unmoved

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, heading Russia’s delegation in Putin’s absence, accused the West of trying to politicize the declaration.

On Monday, Zelenskyy visited Kherson to celebrate the victory there, shaking hands with soldiers and waving to civilians. He said Ukraine had already gathered evidence of at least 400 war crimes committed by Russian troops during their eight-month occupation, including killings and abductions.

The head of the UN human rights office’s monitoring mission in Ukraine on Tuesday decried a “dire humanitarian situation” in the city. Speaking from Kyiv, Matilda Bogner said her teams are looking to travel to Kherson to try to verify allegations of nearly 80 cases of enforced disappearances and arbitrary detention it has turned up in the area and “understand whether the scale is in fact larger than what we have documented already.”

The head of the National Police of Ukraine, Igor Klymenko, said authorities are to start investigating reports from Kherson residents that Russian forces set up at least three alleged torture sites in now-liberated parts of the wider Kherson region and that “our people may have been detained and tortured there.”

The retaking of Kherson was one of Ukraine’s biggest successes in the nearly nine-month-old Russian invasion and dealt another stinging blow to the Kremlin. But large parts of Eastern and southern Ukraine remain under Russian control and fighting continues.

People receive humanitarian aid in central Kherson on Tuesday. (Efrem Lukatsky/The Associated Press)