Ukraine’s allies see risk in Russia’s response to battlefield setbacks

  • Russia steps up strikes against Ukrainian civilian targets
  • Ukraine says repelling attacks in areas of its counter-offensives
  • Ukraine says graves found near Izium, relatives search for dead
  • Biden urges Putin not to use tactical nuclear and chemical weapons

IZIUM, Ukraine, September 18 (Reuters) – The top U.S. general warned on Sunday that it was unclear how Russia would react to its setbacks on the battlefield in Ukraine, as Britain said forces from Moscow had expanded their strikes on civilian infrastructure and were likely to further expand their targets. .

Ukrainian General Staff said Ukrainian forces repelled attacks by Russian troops in areas of Kharkiv region in the east and Kherson in the south where Ukraine launched counter-offensives this month , as well as in parts of Donetsk in the southeast.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has vowed there will be no respite from the fighting.

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“Perhaps it seems to some of you that after a winning streak we now have some sort of lull,” he said in his usual late-night speech. “But there won’t be a lull. There is preparation for the next series… Because Ukraine must be free. All of that.”

Ukrainians who returned to the northeast area recaptured in the meteoric advance from Kyiv earlier this month searched for their dead as Russian artillery and airstrikes continued to pound targets in eastern Ukraine .


On Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin brushed aside Ukraine’s swift counteroffensive and said Moscow would respond more forcefully if its troops came under additional pressure. Read more

These repeated threats have raised fears that Putin might at some point turn to small nuclear weapons or chemical warfare.

US President Joe Biden, who was asked what he would tell Putin if he considered using such weapons, replied in an interview with CBS’ 60 Minutes: “Don’t. Don’t. Don’t. It would change the face of warfare. It’s unlike anything since World War II.” Read more

Some military analysts have said Russia could also stage a nuclear incident at Zaporizhzhia, Europe’s largest nuclear power plant owned by Russia but operated by Ukrainian personnel.

Moscow and Kyiv have accused each other of bombing the plant which damaged buildings and disrupted power lines needed to keep it cool and safe. Read more

U.S. Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called for vigilance after visiting a base in Poland helping Ukraine’s war effort. His remarks were a reminder of the risks of escalation as the United States and its NATO allies help Ukraine from a distance.

“The war is not going too well for Russia at the moment. So it is incumbent on all of us to maintain a high state of readiness, alert,” he said after his trip to the base, which reporters traveling with him were asked not to identify. Read more

Five civilians were killed in Russian attacks in the eastern region of Donetsk over the past day and in Nikopol further west several dozen residential buildings, gas pipelines and power lines were hit, it said on Sunday. regional governors.

In an intelligence update, the British Ministry of Defense said Russian strikes against civilian infrastructure, including a power grid and a dam, had intensified.

“As it faces setbacks on the front lines, Russia has likely expanded the locations it is prepared to strike with the aim of directly undermining the morale of the Ukrainian people and government,” he said. he declares.

Mass graves

On Saturday, Zelenskiy said authorities found a mass grave containing the bodies of 17 soldiers in Izium, some of whom he said bore signs of torture.

Residents of Izium searched for dead relatives at a forest grave where workers began exhuming bodies last week. Ukrainian officials said last week they had found 440 bodies in the woods near Izium. They said most of the dead were civilians and the causes of death had not been established.

The Kremlin has not commented on the discovery of the graves, but in the past Moscow has repeatedly denied deliberately attacking civilians or committing atrocities.

Weaving his way between graves and trees where exhumations were taking place, Volodymyr Kolesnyk was trying to match numbers on wooden crosses with names on a carefully handwritten list to locate relatives he believed had been killed. during an airstrike early in the war. Kolesnyk said he got the list from a local funeral home that dug the graves.

“They buried the bodies in bags, with no coffins, with nothing. I wasn’t allowed here at first. They (the Russians) said it was mined and asked to wait,” he said. he told Reuters.

In Kozacha Lopan, a village about 45 km (30 miles) north of Kharkiv and just 5 km (3 miles) from the Russian border, a Reuters reporter was taken to a squalid cellar with rooms fitted with bars of iron, which officials said served as a makeshift prison during the occupation. District Mayor Vyacheslav Zadorenko said the rooms had been used as a “torture cellar” to hold civilians. Reuters was unable to verify these accounts.

Elsewhere in the region, residents of towns recaptured after six months of Russian occupation returned with a mixture of joy and apprehension. Read more

“I always kept this feeling that at any moment a shell could explode or a plane could fly overhead,” said Nataliia Yelistratova, who traveled with her husband and daughter 80 km (50 miles) on a train from Kharkiv to his hometown of Balakliia to find his building intact, but bruised by the bombings.

“I’m still scared to be here,” she said after discovering shrapnel in a wall.

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Reports from Reuters offices; Written by Lincoln Feast, Raissa Kasolowsky, Tomasz Janowski and David Brunnstrom; Editing by William Mallard, Frances Kerry and Daniel Wallis

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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