Kyiv, Ukraine — Russian missiles struck towns and villages in eastern and southern Ukraine on Tuesday, hitting homes, a school and a community center as Russian President Vladimir Putin was in Iran to discuss a backed proposal by the UN aimed at unblocking Ukrainian grain exports.
In Kramatorsk, a town in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk province considered a likely occupation target by Russian forces, one person was killed in an airstrike that hit a five-storey residential building , said regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko.
Ukraine’s emergency service said on Telegram that 10 people were injured, including five hospitalized, but it did not mention any deaths.
Fresh blood stained nearby concrete as apartments on at least two floors burned. In the aftermath of the attack, shrapnel was placed in a small pile near an empty playground.
“There was no one here. Everything is in ruins,” said Halyna Maydannyk, the resident of a burned apartment. “Who knows why they do this? We all lived peacefully.
Kramatorsk residents Mykola Zavodovskyi and Tetiana Zavodovska stood in bandages outside a local hospital. They said they heard loud applause and went to their balcony to investigate. Then everything exploded and the windows shattered.
“It was probably a rocket, and it was probably shot down by Ukrainian forces,” they said.
The strike shortly after noon came after Kyrylenko reported four more Russian strikes in Kramatorsk and urged civilians to evacuate.
Russian forces also fired seven Kalibr cruise missiles overnight at the Odessa region in southern Ukraine. The Russian Defense Ministry said the strikes on the village of Bilenke had a legitimate military objective and “destroyed ammunition depots for weapons supplied by the United States and European countries”.
A local official disputed Moscow’s claim and said six people were injured.
“These strikes against peaceful people have one goal: to intimidate the population and the authorities and keep them in constant tension,” Serhiy Bratchuk, the chairman of the Odessa regional government, told Ukrainian television.
Amid indications that Ukraine was planning counterattacks to retake occupied areas, the Russian military has in recent weeks targeted Odessa and parts of southern Ukraine where its troops captured towns earlier in the war.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian ground forces to the east are fighting to keep the declining territory under their control.
At least two civilians have been killed and 15 others injured by Russian shelling across Ukraine in the past 24 hours, Ukraine’s presidential office said in a morning update.
“There remains a high level of threat from missile strikes throughout Ukrainian territory,” said Oleksandr Shtupun, spokesman for the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
In Donetsk province in eastern Ukraine, which was cut off from gas supplies and partly from water and electricity, one person was killed and two others were injured.
“The infrastructure of cities is being methodically destroyed by missile strikes, and the civilian population, cut off from the bare necessities, suffers the most,” Kyrylenko said in televised remarks.
The missile strikes came as the British military said it believed Russia was facing “increasingly acute” problems in maintaining its manpower in its bitter war of attrition which began with the invasion of Ukraine on February 24.
Britain’s Ministry of Defense said in an assessment Tuesday morning that Russia “has struggled to maintain effective offensive combat power since the invasion began, and this problem is likely to become increasingly acute” as Moscow seeks to conquer the Donbass region in eastern Ukraine.
The British Army added: “Although Russia may still make further territorial gains, her operational tempo and pace of advance is likely to be very slow without a significant operational pause for reorganization and refit.”
In other developments on Tuesday:
— Ukraine’s parliament has approved President Volodymyr Zelensky’s decision to dismiss Ivan Bakanov as head of the country’s security service, the SBU. Zelenskyy sacked Bakanov, along with Iryna Venediktova, who served as Ukraine’s prosecutor general, over the weekend. Parliament voted separately to approve Venediktova’s ouster. As part of the reshuffle, Zelenskyy on Tuesday also sacked the heads of five regional SBU branches and a deputy director of the agency.
— Ukrainian First Lady Olena Zelenska traveled to Washington at the invitation of US First Lady Jill Biden. Zelenska met with Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday. US State Department spokesman Ned Price said Blinken assured her of US commitment to Ukraine and praised her for her work with civilians struggling with trauma. and other war damage. Zelenska is expected to meet Jill Biden on Tuesday.
Cara Anna contributed reporting from Kramatorsk.
Follow AP coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine