Ukraine says Russian forces intensifying efforts to seize control of Donbas region

Missile strikes claim first civilian lives of war in ‘safe haven’ city of Lviv

Ukraine has said Russian forces are now intensifying efforts to seize control of its eastern Donbas region, after missile strikes in the far west of the embattled country claimed the first civilian lives of the war in the “safe haven” city of Lviv.

At least seven people were killed and 11 injured on Monday when several long-range Russian rockets hit warehouses and a car repair garage in Lviv, which is 70km from the Polish border and a key hub for displaced Ukrainians and those fleeing to the European Union.

“These are the first deaths of civilians in our city,” Lviv mayor Andriy Sadovyi said in the eighth week of a Russian invasion that has killed thousands of people and driven more than 10 million from their homes.

“The enemy is starting to be monstrous. Strikes on civilian targets may increase. There are no safe places in Ukraine today,” he said, adding that the Kremlin was intent on committing “genocide” in his country.


Russia insists it has only struck military targets in Ukraine, and its defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said Monday’s missile salvo had destroyed a Ukrainian army logistical centre and weapons supplied by the United States and European countries.

Moscow also denies allegations of committing war crimes in Ukraine, despite the discovery of the bodies of hundreds of civilians in areas such as Bucha and Irpin, outside the capital, Kyiv, which its forces occupied for several weeks.

A decree signed by Russian president Vladimir Putin on Monday bestowed the honorary title “Guards” on a unit that occupied Bucha, and praised its servicemen for their “mass heroism and daring, fortitude and bravery . . . in armed conflicts to defend the fatherland and state interests”.

The general staff of Ukraine’s military said it had seen “signs of the start of an offensive operation” in the east of the country, where Russia was now focused on “establishing full control” of the Donbas region and linking it to the occupied Crimean peninsula.

“Along with this, the enemy continues to launch missile and bomb strikes against Ukrainian infrastructure facilities. In particular, the number of sorties by operational-tactical aviation of Russian aircraft has increased by more than 1½ times” in recent days, added Ukrainian defence ministry spokesman Oleksandr Motuzyanyk.

Ukrainian officials have urged civilians to flee areas that are now coming under intense shelling in Donbas, but they said designated evacuation “corridors” could not be opened on Monday due to fighting and a lack of agreement from the Russian side.

Luhansk regional governor Serhiy Haidai said Russian forces took control of the town of Kreminna after fierce fighting, but insisted that government troops were putting up powerful resistance across Donbas.

Photographs and footage emerged on Monday showing what appears to be the Moskva, flagship of Russia’s Black Sea fleet, burning and listing badly before it sank last week. Ukraine says a missile strike crippled the vessel, but Russia has blamed an unexplained fire and bad weather.

“We can’t say how authentic they are or how far they reflect reality,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said of the images.

Daniel McLaughlin

Daniel McLaughlin

Daniel McLaughlin is a contributor to The Irish Times from central and eastern Europe