Russian shells have pounded the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson, killing at least seven people and injuring 58 more in a brutal Christmas bombardment.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, just back from a short trip to Washington, posted photos of the wreckage on his social media accounts. He noted the destruction came as Ukrainians were beginning Christmas celebrations which for many Orthodox Christians will culminate in a traditional celebration on January 7.
“This is not sensitive content — it’s the real life of Kherson,” he tweeted. The images showed cars on fire, bodies in the street and building windows blown out, as the Black Sea port was targeted while many locals were walking and enjoying the winter sunshine. The deputy head of the presidential office, Kyrylo Tymoshenko, said at least seven people were killed in the shelling on Saturday and 58 were injured, at least 16 seriously.
Saturday marks 10 months since the start of the Russian invasion. Ukrainian troops recently retook Kherson with a swift counter offensive, driving Russian forces out of the city. Its army has also had successes in the north-east of the country, pushing Moscow’s line back in Lukansk and Donetsk - regions which Vladimir Putinhas claimed as Russian.
Ukraine has faced an onslaught of Russian artillery fire, missiles, shelling and drone attacks since early October, much of it targeting energy infrastructure in a bid to cut electricity and heating services as the freezing winter advances. The shelling has been especially intense in Kherson since Russian forces withdrew and Ukraine’s army reclaimed the city in November.
Earlier on Saturday, the Donetsk regional governor, Pavlo Kyrylenko, said two people had been killed and five wounded in shelling there over the past day. The deaths were in Kurakhove, a town of about 20,000 which is 18 miles west of the Russian-controlled city of Donetsk.
About 60 shells hit three communities during the night in the area of Nikopol, said Dnipropetrovsk regional governor Valentyn Reznichenko. Stepne, a settlement on the outskirts of Zaporizhzhia, was also hit by shelling but there were no details on casualties, according to governor Oleksander Starukh.
Zelensky has returned to Kyiv after his trip to the US, in which he secured another £1.5 billion in military aid. On Friday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov claimed the war will end at the negotiating table once the “special military operation“ achieves Russia’s goals.
He said no reported Ukrainian peace plan can succeed without taking into account “the realities of today that can’t be ignored” — a reference to Moscow’s demand that Ukraine recognises Russia’s sovereignty over the Crimean peninsula, which was annexed in 2014, as well as other territorial gains.