Russia prepares for next Ukraine offensive in face of new Western weapons

Rockets hit the northeastern town of Chuhuiv in Kharkiv region on Friday night, killing three people including a 70-year-old woman and wounding three others, said regional Governor Oleh Synehubov.

“Three people lost their lives, why? What for? Because Putin went mad?” said Raisa Shapoval, 83, a distraught resident sitting in the ruins of her home.

To the south, more than 50 Russian Grad rockets pounded the city of Nikopol on the Dnipro River, killing two people who were found in the rubble, Governor Valentyn Reznichenko said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Russia was continuing to sow grief and death on Ukrainian soil eight years on from the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014. International investigators have said the plane was downed by a Russian surface-to-air missile likely fired by Russian-backed militia in the region.

Zelenskiy said his thoughts were with relatives of the dead and that nothing would go unpunished. “Every criminal will be brought to justice!” he wrote on Twitter.

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu ordered military units to intensify operations to defend parts of eastern Ukraine and other areas held by Russia, according to a statement from the ministry.

His remarks on Saturday appeared to be a direct response to what Kyiv says is a string of successful strikes carried out on 30 Russian logistics and ammunitions hubs, using several multiple launch rocket systems recently supplied by the West.

The strikes are causing havoc with Russian supply lines and have significantly reduced Russia’s offensive capability, Ukraine’s defence ministry spokesperson said on Friday. He singled out U.S.-made High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) that Kyiv began receiving last month.

“Good morning from HIMARS,” Andriy Yermak, chief of staff to Ukraine’s president wrote on Telegram on Sunday alongside a video showing a large explosion which he said was another destroyed Russian ammunition depot in southern Ukraine.

Vadym Skibitskyi, an official at Ukrainian military intelligence, said earlier that HIMARS could be used on targets in Crimea, which was annexed from Ukraine by Russia in 2014 when it also backed armed separatists in east Ukraine.

On Sunday, former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev said the refusal of Ukraine and NATO powers to recognise Moscow’s authority over Crimea represents a “systemic threat” for Russia, which has the headquarters of its Black Sea fleet there.

Russian-backed separatists said Ukraine had hit the town of Alchevsk, east of Sloviansk, with six HIMARS rockets on Saturday. The self-styled Luhansk People’s Republic said the strikes had killed two civilians and damaged a bus depot, health camp and apartments.

Ukraine’s armed forces said they had struck the bus depot because they had information it was being used to house Russian troops.

The Russian defence ministry said its forces had destroyed a launch ramp and reloading vehicle for one of the HIMARS systems deployed near the eastern city of Pokrovsk.

The head of Pokrovsk regional police, Ruslan Osypenko, said a residential area had been shelled by Russia with multiple rocket launchers and there were dead and wounded. It released video of damaged homes and residents describing the attack.

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