News Russia strikes Kramatorsk amid warning of new offensive in eastern Ukraine: Live updates
KRAMATORSK, Ukraine — Russian missiles hit Kramatorsk in eastern Ukraine on Thursday, hitting a city that is a key base for Ukrainian military operations, and Kyiv warned that Moscow would be at the center of a long-running campaign. A new offensive in the 11-month war.
The strike came hours after Russian President Vladimir V. Putin was expected to speak on the anniversary of the Soviet Union’s victory over the Nazis at Stalingrad to drum up domestic support for his invasion of Ukraine It was the decisive battle of World War II, and it was also seen by many Russians as a symbol of wartime heroism.
Russian attacks have intensified in Kramatorsk, the longtime Ukrainian military command center and staging ground for Ukrainian defenses of the city of Bakhmut, which Russia is close to capturing after months of brutal fighting. The fall of Bakhmut would be Moscow’s first major military victory since the summer, despite the enormous cost in Russian and Ukrainian lives.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the mass buildup of Russian troops in occupied eastern Ukraine, along with a sharp increase in shelling in the east, marked the start of a new Russian offensive. A rocket hit a four-story apartment building in Kramatorsk on Wednesday night, killing at least three people and injuring a dozen others, turning much of the building into smoking rubble.
As rescuers dug frantically through the rubble to find the entrance to the basement where residents might be hiding, a flash of light and two other missiles hit nearby, sending firefighters running in all directions Thursday.
One missile hit a yard, knocking out several cars and a row of garages, while another got stuck in the middle of the road. Residents fled to basements as police warned of more missiles.
Pavlo Kyrylenko, head of the regional military administration, said Thursday’s airstrike hit residential buildings and injured people, but he gave no immediate details.
Kramatorsk is Ukraine’s largest city, near the center of fighting in the eastern region known as the Donbass. It is a hub of military activity, with the number of soldiers and armored personnel carriers increasing in recent days. Bakhmut is about 20 miles away, and the entire area is bombarded almost daily with Russian munitions.
It was unclear why the apartment building might have been targeted. At the scene of the explosion, several cars were so dilapidated and charred that they looked like they might belong to the military.
“We need to unscrew Putin’s head and everything will be fine,” said a 65-year-old woman, who gave only her name, Svitlana, referring to Mr Putin.
In April, at least 50 people were killed and many more were injured in a missile attack on a Kramatorsk railway station. The attacks continue: Last week, a Russian missile landed just outside a kindergarten in the city, leaving a large crater. On Wednesday, Ukraine’s prosecutor general’s office said it had opened a war crimes investigation into the latest attack.
“This is not history repeating itself; it is the everyday reality of our country,” Mr Zelensky said in a statement after Wednesday’s attack.
The Ukrainian leader renewed his plea for more advanced weapons — fighter jets and long-range missiles — in light of the imminent arrival of Western main battle tanks. Ukraine’s allies have provided Kyiv with a growing arsenal of weapons, but many remain reluctant to meet Ukraine’s demands for military jets.
Carly Olsen in New York and Matthew M’pok Bigger Contributed reporting in London.