KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukrainian rescuers have recovered three bodies from a school hit by a Russian strike in the east of the country, officials said Friday, as attacks continued in several parts of the country.
The reported casualties follow a barrage on Thursday in a densely populated area of Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, which killed at least three people and injured 23 others.
In a rare sign of light, the signing was expected on Friday of an agreement that would allow Ukraine to resume grain shipments across the Black Sea and Russia to export grain and fertilizer.
Beyond that, however, there was no indication of relief from the bitter war. Russia this week reiterated its intention to seize territory beyond eastern Ukraine, where the Russian military has spent months trying to conquer the Donbass region.
The Ukrainian president’s office said that in Kramatorsk, Donetsk province, Russian shelling destroyed a school and damaged 85 residential buildings.
Ukraine’s National Emergency Agency said it completed work at the school, which was hit on Thursday, and found three bodies.
“Russia’s strikes on schools and hospitals are very painful and reflect its true aim of reducing peaceful towns to rubble,” Donetsk Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said in a televised address, reiterating his call for residents to evacuate.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Lt. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, however, said the Russian strike killed more than 300 Ukrainian soldiers who were using the No. 23 school building in Kramatorsk as a base. He said another strike destroyed an ammunition depot in the industrial zone of the southern city of Mykolaiv.
Konashenkov also said Russian forces destroyed four US-supplied HIMARS multiple rocket launchers between July 5 and July 20. The United States said it provided 12 HIMARS systems and is delivering four more.
The claims could not be independently verified. A senior U.S. defense official, who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity in accordance with department rules, said Thursday that Russia has yet to release a single HIMARS system, but is likely to “will be lucky” and that she will at some point.
The Ukrainian military has used HIMARS, which have higher range and better accuracy compared to similar Soviet-era systems in Russian and Ukrainian inventory, to strike Russian munitions depots and other key targets.
In the Dnipro region of central Ukraine, three schools were destroyed in the latest Russian strikes, Ukrainian authorities said. Seven Russian missiles hit the small town of Apostolove in the Dnipro region, injuring 18 residents.
Regional Governor Valentyn Reznichenko denounced the “senseless” attack, saying that “there are no military objectives behind it and this bombardment can only be explained by their desire to keep people on their nerves and to sow panic and fear”.
In other developments Friday:
– Britain’s Ministry of Defense says it believes Russia is experiencing “critical shortages” of dedicated ground attack missiles and has increased its use of air defense missiles “in secondary ground attack mode” because of this. He said Russia had “almost certainly” deployed S-300 and S-400 strategic air defense systems designed to shoot down long-range aircraft and missiles, and that there was a “high chance” that they miss their targets and cause civilian casualties.
– The top US defense official says the fight for Donetsk “is expected to last all summer” with Russia making slow gains at a high cost. The official said Russia currently launches tens of thousands of artillery rounds a day, but has used a lot of “smarter munitions” and “cannot go on forever”.
— A member of the city council of Russia’s third-largest city has been charged with spreading false information about the Russian armed forces and could face up to three years in prison if convicted. The criminal case against Novosibirsk council member Helga Pirogova was opened on Friday, according to Russian news agency RIA-Novosti. Investigators found that she “published deliberately false information under the guise of a reliable message containing data on the use of the Russian armed forces,” the report said, without giving further details. Latvia-based independent media Meduza, which covers Russian news, said the investigation began after a tweet by Pirogova criticizing the “luxurious” funerals of Russians killed in Ukraine.
Nomaan Merchant in Washington contributed to this report.,
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