Ukraine reported Russian shelling Thursday on the city of Kharkiv killed at least two people and wounded 19 others.
Regional governor Oleg Synegubov said the dead included one child, and that four people were in serious condition.
Britain’s defense ministry said Thursday that Russian forces were continuing small-scale assaults along the front line in the Donbas region, the part of eastern Ukraine that has been a focus of its war.
The ministry said in its daily assessment that Russia was likely closing in on the Vuhlehirska power plant, northeast of Donetsk, and that Russian forces were prioritizing capturing critical infrastructure sites.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Wednesday that Moscow wants to capture territory in southern Ukraine beyond the Donbas region.
Russia failed in early stages of its five-month offensive to topple the government of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy or capture the capital, Kyiv, in northern Ukraine.
But Lavrov said in an interview Wednesday with state media that Russia no longer feels constrained to fighting in the Donbas where Russian separatists have been battling Kyiv’s forces since 2014, when Russia seized Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.
“Now, the geography has changed. It’s not just Donetsk and Luhansk. It’s Kherson, Zaporizhzhia and several other territories. This process is continuing, consistently and persistently,” Lavrov told the state news RT television and RIA Novosti news agency.
Lavrov, Russia’s top diplomat, said Moscow’s territorial objectives would expand still further if Western countries delivered more long-range missiles to Kyiv.
The U.S. announced Wednesday plans to send four more such rocket systems to Ukraine, along with more artillery rounds.
“Ukrainian forces are now using long-range rocket systems to great effect, including HIMARS provided by the United States, and other systems from our allies and partners,” U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Wednesday at the Pentagon. “Ukraine’s defenders are pushing hard to hold Russia’s advances in the Donbas.”
General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the Ukrainians have been using U.S.-supplied multiple rocket launchers to hit Russian command centers and supply lines, including a strategically important bridge across the Dnieper River in the Kherson region.
Russian officials said the bridge has sustained damage but is still open to some traffic. The Russian military would be hard-pressed to keep supplying its forces in the region if the bridge were destroyed.
“The Ukrainians are making the Russians pay for every inch of territory that they gain,” Milley said, and the Donbas is “not lost yet. The Ukrainians intend to continue the fight.”
The future, Milley said, will depend on the number of long-range rockets and ammunition the Ukrainians have.
“We have a very serious grinding war of attrition going on in the Donbas. And unless there’s a breakthrough on either side — which right now the analysts don’t think is particularly likely in the near term — it will probably continue as a grinding war of attrition for a period of time until both sides see an alternative way out of this, perhaps through negotiation or something like that.”
White House national security spokesperson John Kirby told reporters Tuesday that U.S. intelligence indicated Russia is “laying the groundwork to annex Ukrainian territory that it controls in direct violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty.”
Kirby said the areas involved in plans that Russia is reviewing include Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, and all of Donetsk and Luhansk provinces.
Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.