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Russian Forces Assault 2 Ukraine Cities08/07 10:06

   

   KYIV, Ukraine (AP) -- Russian forces began an assault Saturday on two key 
cities in the eastern Donetsk region and kept up rocket and shelling attacks on 
other Ukrainian cities, including one close to Europe's largest nuclear power 
plant, Ukraine's military and local officials said.

   Both cities of Bakhmut and Avdiivka have been considered key targets of 
Russia's ongoing offensive across Ukraine's east, with analysts saying Moscow 
needs to take Bakhmut if it is to advance on the regional hubs of Sloviansk and 
Kramatorsk.

   "In the Donetsk direction, the enemy is conducting an offensive operation, 
concentrating its main efforts on the Bakhmut and Avdiivka directions. It uses 
ground attack and army aviation," the Ukrainian General Staff said on Facebook.

   The last Russian strike on Sloviansk was July 30, but Ukrainian forces are 
fortifying their positions around the city in expectation of new fighting.

   "I think it won't be calm for long. Eventually, there will be an assault," 
Col. Yurii Bereza, head of the volunteer national guard regiment, told The 
Associated Press.

   Russian shelling killed five civilians and injured 14 others in the Donetsk 
region in the last day, Donetsk governor Pavlo Kyrylenko wrote Saturday on 
Telegram, saying two people were killed in Poprosny, and one each in Avdiivka, 
Soledar and Pervomaiskiy.

   The governor of the eastern Dnipropetrovsk region said three civilians were 
injured after Russian rockets fell on a residential neighborhood in Nikopol, a 
city across the Dnieper River from the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station. The 
nuclear plant has been under Russian control since Moscow's troops seized it 
early in the war.

   "After midnight, the Russian army struck the Nikopol area with (Soviet-era) 
Grad rockets, and the Kryvyi Rih area from barrel artillery," Valentyn 
Reznichenko wrote on Telegram.

   Another Russian missile attack overnight damaged unspecified infrastructure 
in the regional capital of Zaporizhzhia. On Thursday, Russia fired 60 rockets 
at Nikopol, damaging 50 residential buildings in the city of 107,000 and 
leaving residents without electricity.

   Rafael Grossi, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, warned this 
week that the situation was becoming more perilous day by day at the 
Zaporizhzhia plant.

   "Every principle of nuclear safety has been violated" at the plant, he said. 
"What is at stake is extremely serious."

   He expressed concern about the way the plant is being operated and the 
danger posed by the fighting going on around it. Experts at the U.S.-based 
Institute for the Study of War said Russia is shelling the area intentionally, 
"putting Ukraine in a difficult position."

   The Ukrainian company operating the nuclear power station said Saturday that 
Russian troops are using the plant's basement to hide from Ukrainian shelling 
and have barred its Ukrainian staff from going there.

   "Ukrainian personnel do not yet have access to these premises, so in the 
event of new shelling, people have no shelter and are in danger," Enerhoatom, a 
Ukrainian state enterprise, said on its Telegram channel.

   Enerhoatom said Friday that Russian rockets had damaged the plant's 
facilities, including a nitrogen-oxygen unit and a high-voltage power line. 
Local Russian-appointed officials acknowledged the damage, but blamed it on the 
Ukrainians.

   In other developments:

   __ In Ukraine's south, two civilians were seriously injured Saturday after 
Russian forces fired rockets on the Black Sea port of Mykolaiv before dawn, 
according to regional authorities. That followed a Friday afternoon attack on 
Mykolaiv that killed one person and wounded 21 others.

   __In the Kherson region south of Mykolaiv, the deputy mayor of the 
Russia-occupied city of Nova Kakhovka was in critical condition after an 
assassination attempt, the Russian state news agency RIA-Novosti said, citing 
the deputy head of the Kherson region, most of which is under Russian control.

   __The first of three more ships carrying thousands of tons of corn from 
Ukraine anchored north of Istanbul on Saturday awaiting inspection, the Turkish 
Defense Ministry said. The Panama-flagged Navi Star, which is carrying 33,000 
tons of grain to Ireland, left Odesa on Friday. It is being followed by the 
Turkish-flagged Polarnet and the Maltese-flagged Rojen, carrying over 25,000 
tons of corn between them from Chornomorsk. The joint inspection center was set 
up to get grain blocked in Ukraine by the war to the world. On Friday, the 
center inspected its first north-bound ship as it headed for Chornomorsk.

   __In the north, Ukraine's second-largest city of Kharkiv and its surrounding 
area also came under Russian rocket fire again overnight, according to regional 
governor Oleh Syniehubov. A 18-year-old in Chuhuiv, a town near Kharkiv, had to 
be hospitalized Saturday after he picked up an unexploded shell. Both Chuhuiv 
and Kharkiv are near the Russian border and have endured sustained Russian 
shelling in recent weeks.

   __The neighboring Sumy region, which also borders Russia, has also seen 
near-constant shelling and missile strikes. Its governor said Saturday the 
region was hit more than 60 times from Russian territory over the previous day, 
and one wounded civilian had to be hospitalized.

   __ On the ammunition front, Russia has begun using Iranian combat drones in 
the war, Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said in a YouTube 
adding that Tehran had transferred 46 drones to the Russian army.

 
 
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