Ukrainian forces have launched their biggest offensive in the occupied Donetsk region since 2014, according to a Russian official, following heavy fighting in the country’s east.
Donetsk has been held by Russian-backed separatists for eight years, one of four Ukrainian regions that Moscow tried to annex in October, in violation of international law.
Moscow-appointed mayor Aleksey Kolymzin posted on Telegram: “At 7 am, (Ukrainians) subjected the center of Donetsk (a city) to the biggest strike since 2014.”
“40 BM-21 Grad MLRS missiles were fired at civilians in our city,” he said on Thursday, adding that a major road junction in Donetsk city center came under fire.
Kulemzin shared photos of the damage to residential and commercial buildings and a cathedral on Telegram.
Russian state media reported that there were no reports of injuries.
CNN cannot independently confirm Kulemzin’s claims.
The war in Ukraine escalated further south as Russia also launched new attacks on Kherson overnight, following a deadly bombing wave in the region earlier this week. Ukrainian forces recaptured the city last month in one of the most significant breakthroughs of the war so far.
The city was bombed 86 times “by artillery, MLRS, tanks, mortars and drones” in the past 24 hours, according to the head of the military district of the Kherson Military Directorate.
Yaroslav Yanushevich said in a Telegram that the continuous shelling from Moscow had killed at least two people on Thursday and injured three others.
One of the (victims) was a volunteer, a member of the international organization’s rapid intervention team. He added that during the bombing, they were in the street and were fatally wounded by shrapnel from the enemy.
Janosevic added that three people were killed and 13 wounded, including an eight-year-old boy, on Wednesday.
The escalating strikes in Donetsk and Kherson came against the backdrop of a harsh winter in Ukraine brought about by widespread power outages, by Russia targeting critical infrastructure, and by the war’s fierce battlefield attrition.
The head of the Kherson military district, Yanushevich, said the strikes in Kherson had left the city “completely cut off” from electricity.
The enemy has hit a very important infrastructure facility. Janosevic later said in a Telegram video on Thursday that Shell fragments destroyed residential buildings and the location of the medical and humanitarian aid distribution point.
Meanwhile, western Kyiv has received more machinery and generators from the United States to help boost the Ukrainian capital’s energy infrastructure amid widespread power shortages.
The city’s mayor, Vitali Klitschko, said that the city “has received machines and generators from the US government to operate boiler rooms and heat supply stations.”
Klitschko said on Telegram that the USAID Energy Security Project provides four platforms and more than 130 generators. All materials were free.
This week, the Kremlin also appeared to reject Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s peace solution that included a demand for Russia to begin withdrawing its forces from Ukraine by Christmas — with the war approaching the 10-month threshold.
“The Ukrainian side should take into account the realities that have developed over all this time,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Tuesday in response to Zelensky’s three-step proposal.
“These facts indicate that the Russian Federation has new subjects,” he said, referring to four regions that Russia claimed it annexed, Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk, and Zaporizhia.
“Without considering these new realities, any progress is impossible,” Peskov added.