Deadly blasts hit separatist-run city in Ukraine

Thirteen people have been killed and others wounded in a series of explosions in the separatist-run city of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine, according to its Russian-backed mayor.

Alexei Kulemzin blamed “punitive” Ukrainian shellfire for the deaths. There is no comment from Ukrainian officials. Donetsk has been controlled by Russia’s proxy authorities since 2014. They have repeatedly accused Ukrainian forces of targeting the city.

Independent confirmation is hard to come by on the ground in separatist-held areas of the east. However, local authorities said nine 150mm shells were fired at the Kuibyshevsky district of Donetsk, from a village to the west of the city.

Local leader, Denis Pushilin, accused Ukraine of deliberately targeting civilians at a bus-stop, a shop and a bank.

Although Russian forces have seized areas of the Donetsk region further south since the invasion began in February, they have struggled to push the Ukrainian army back from the outskirts of the city itself.

Ukrainian forces have launched counter-offensives in the south as well as the north-east, and their most dramatic progress has come this month in the northern Kharkiv region.

The head of Luhansk region, Serhiy Haidai, shared video of a Ukrainian tank crossing a pontoon bridge, and said Ukraine now controlled the left bank of the Oskil river, seen as the front line in north-east Ukraine.

If Ukrainian forces are able to maintain a foothold on the eastern side of the Oskil, it will represent a breakthrough. Mr Haidai said the next target would be liberating the city of Lyman, which was seized by Russian forces in May.

“Luhansk region is right next door. De-occupation is not far away,” he claimed.

In his nightly address late on Sunday, President Volodymyr Zelensky said that recent days may have looked like a lull of sorts: “But there will be no lull. There is preparation for the next series… For Ukraine must be free. All of it.”

Russia was accused on Monday of targeting a nuclear plant in the south. Ukrainian nuclear operator, Enerhoatom, said a rocket landed 300m (1,000ft) from nuclear reactors at the country’s second largest plant in Mykolayiv region, damaging buildings and shutting down part of a hydro-electric power station at the complex. -BBC

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