KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Powerful explosions rocked the southern Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv on Thursday, and a town near the country’s largest nuclear power plant came under a barrage of shelling amid Russian attacks in several regions, the Ukrainian presidential office said.
At least four civilians have been killed and 10 others injured in the past 24 hours, and nine Ukrainian regions have come under fire, the office said in its daily update.
Two neighborhoods of Mykolaiv, frequently targeted in recent weeks, were bombed.
Russian forces reportedly fired 60 rockets at Nikopol in the central Dnipropetrovsk region. About 50 residential buildings were damaged in the city of 107,000 people and projectiles hit power lines, leaving residents of the city without power, according to Ukrainian authorities.
Nikopol is located across the Dnieper River from the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which was taken over by Russian troops at the start of the war.
Experts from the American Institute for the Study of War believe that Russia is intentionally bombing the region, “putting Ukraine in a difficult position”.
“Either Ukraine retaliates, risking international condemnation and a nuclear incident (which Ukrainian forces are unlikely to do), or Ukrainian forces allow Russian forces to continue firing at Ukrainian positions from a “safe area” “effective,” says the Institute’s latest report.
Earlier this week, the head of the United Nations nuclear monitoring agency expressed concern over the situation at the Zaporizhzhia plant.
In northern Ukraine, the country’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, was being bombed from Russia, the presidential office said. Several industrial facilities were hit in the city, which was also a frequent target. In the nearby town of Chuhuiv, a rocket hit a five-story residential building.
In the eastern region of Donetsk, where fighting has been concentrated in recent weeks, residential buildings were shelled in all major towns and a school was destroyed in the village of Ocheretyne. The region struggles without gas supply and, in part, without electricity and water supply; its inhabitants are evacuated.
Russian-backed separatist authorities in the city of Donetsk said two people were killed and three others injured in the Ukrainian shelling of the city’s center on Thursday.
Russian forces have already seized the neighboring region of Luhansk. Its Ukrainian governor, Serhiy Haidai, said on social media that local residents are being mobilized to fight Kyiv forces and that “even essential mine workers are being taken”.
Ukrainian authorities reported another kidnapping of a mayor who allegedly refused to collaborate with the Russians in the southern region of Kherson, which is also almost fully occupied.
The reported kidnapping of Serhiy Lyakhno, the mayor of the village of Hornostaivka, comes as Russia is gathering more troops in the region ahead of a counter-offensive from Kyiv and ahead of a planned referendum on the region’s integration into Russia.
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