6 die in Ukraine shelling as new assault looms

Six people have been killed in shelling in an eastern Ukrainian town as Russia eyes its next major offensive.

Five bodies were found in the rubble of a house in Toretsk, in the Donetsk region, while another person died in hospital, emergency services said.

The Ukrainian military said Russia appeared to be regrouping for an offensive towards nearby Sloviansk.

The city was captured in 2014 by pro-Russian separatists who held it for nearly three months.

It was once again set to become a key battleground.

Since Russian troops began their invasion in February, President Vladimir Putin’s original war aims have been drastically curtailed.

The military abandoned its efforts to take the capital, Kyiv, and focused instead on the eastern Donbas region.

In another development, Russian Defence Minister, Sergei Shoigu, has ordered generals to focus on destroying Ukraine’s long-range missile and artillery weapons.

The defence ministry said the weapons were being used to shell residential areas of eastern Ukraine under the control of Russian-backed separatists, and to set fire to wheat fields and grain storage silos.

The ministry also said that a Russian missile strike on Sunday on the Donetsk village of Kostiantynivka had killed up to 250 mercenaries fighting on the Ukrainian side, as well as destroying 19 military vehicles.

The claims could not be independently verified.

In recent weeks, the US has supplied Ukraine with long-range missiles, including precision-guided High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), which Kyiv saidwere beginning to make a difference on the battlefield.

HIMARS was far more accurate than Russia’s equivalent systems and has been credited with a string of recent attacks deep into Russian-held territory.

In other fighting, Ukraine’s southern command said two Russian missiles have hit a military target outside the southern port of Odesa, while another has struck a bridge across the Dniester estuary.

A fourth was shot down over the Black Sea. Officials said there were no casualties and the fire at the military facility was under control.

They said the bridge had been out of action since Russian forces began targeting it in April.

Meanwhile, British military intelligence has said Russia was using mercenaries from the Wagner group to reinforce front lines in Ukraine. -BBC

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