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Ukraine War: Russian Strikes Kill 19 Ahead of Expected Ukrainian Counter-Offensive, Read All Latest Updates

Three children were among the 19 killed in Russian missile and drone strikes in Ukraine. Missiles also targeted Ukrainian capital Kyiv, which were first such strikes on the capital in around two months.

A Ukrainian building struck during Russian missile and drone strikes on early Friday
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Russian missile and drone strikes on Friday killed 19 people in Ukraine. 

Seventeen of 19 fatalities occured when two missiles hit an apartment building in central Ukrainian city of Uman. The dead included two 10-year-olds and a toddler. A 75-year-old woman in a nearby building suffered internal bleeding from the huge blast's shock wave, according to emergency personnel at the scene. 

Russia fired more than 20 cruise missiles and two drones. The missile attacks included the first attack against Ukrainian Kyiv in nearly two months, although there were no reports of any targets hit. The city government said Ukraine's air force intercepted 11 cruise missiles and two unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) over Kyiv.

The Ukrainian national police said 17 people were wounded and three children were rescued from the rubble. Nine were hospitalised.

The bombardment was nowhere near the war's sprawling front lines or active combat zones in Eastern Ukraine, where a grinding war of attrition has taken hold. Moscow has frequently launched long-range missile attacks during the 14-month war, often indiscriminately hitting civilian areas.

Ukrainian officials and analysts have alleged such strikes are part of a deliberate intimidation strategy by the Kremlin.

Strikes targeted Ukrainian reserve units: Russia

The Russian Defence Ministry said the latest long-range air-launched cruise missiles launched overnight were aimed at places where Ukrainian military reserve units were staying before their deployment to the battlefield.

"The strike has achieved its goal. All the designated facilities have been hit," said Lt. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, the Defence Ministry's spokesperson. He didn't mention any specific areas or residential buildings getting hit.

Survivors share terrifying accounts

Survivors of the Uman strikes recounted terrifying moments as the missiles hit when it still was dark outside.

Halyna, a building resident, said she and her husband were covered in glass by the blast. They saw flames outside their window and scrambled out, but first Halyna checked whether her friend in a neighbouring apartment was okat.

She told AP, "I was calling, calling her (on the phone), but she didn't pick up. I even rang the doorbell, but still no answer."

She used the spare keys from her friend's apartment and went inside to check on her. She found her lying dead on her apartment floor.

Halyna refused to provide her last name out of security concerns.

Another building resident, Olha Turina, told the AP that glass from the explosion flew everywhere.

Turina, whose husband is fighting on the front lines, said one of her child's classmates was missing.

She said, "I don't know where they are, I don't know if they are alive. I don't know why we have to go through all this. We never bothered anyone."

Three body bags lay next to the building as smoke continued to billow hours after the attack. Soldiers, civilians and emergency crews searched through the rubble outside for more victims, while residents dragged belongings out of the damaged building.

One woman, crying in shock, was taken away by rescue crews for help.

Yulia Norovkova, spokeswoman for emergency rescue crews on the scene, said that local volunteers were helping nearly 150 emergency personnel. Two aid stations, including psychologists, were operating, she said.

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Russia shuffles military leadership: Report

In a separate but war-related development, Russians have shuffled their military commanders in the Ukraine War, according to a report.

The think tank Institute for the Study of War (ISW) reported that a number of number of commands have exchanged hands in the Russian military. The report cited Russian military bloggers —called "milbloggers" in military reporting parlance— as saying  that some transfers could be related to shortcomings among the troops the officers commanded.

The ISW reported, "A Wagner-affiliated milblogger claimed Mizintsev’s dismissal may be a result of a combat readiness check carried out by former commander of the airborne forces and Wagner affiliate Col. Gen. Mikhail Teplinsky, who was recently re-appointed to an unspecified command role in Ukraine. The milblogger claimed that Teplinsky’s inspection revealed that troops in certain places of the front were not receiving necessary weapons. Wagner has had serious issues dealing with the Russian logistics enterprise and Teplinsky’s reported role in identifying supply issues may portend a renewed focus of Russian sustainment organs on providing Wagner with logistical support, as Teplinsky’s affiliations with Wagner are well-known."

Russia continues defensive, offensive operations: Report

The Russian strikes and commanders' transfers come amid defensive and offensive operations across the many frontlines of the conflict. 

The Ukraine War has turned into a grinding war of attrition at many places. Bakhmut has been the centre of attention in recent months that has seen some of the most intensive fighting in recent months. 

On Thursday, ISW reported that Russian forces conducted defensive operations in the Kupyansk direction and a limited ground attack near Kreminna.

According to ISW's assessment on Thursday, significant fighting is going on in Bakhmut, Avdiivka Marinka, Krasnohorivka, and close to Spime in Eastern Ukraine.

In the South, ISW reported that Russians are further militarising the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) against possible Ukrainian counter-offensive.

Ukrainian plans 'big-bang' counter-offensive: Expert

A military expert has said that Ukraine is planning a "big-bang" counter-offensive that would break the stalemate in the Ukraine War.

For weeks, a possible Ukrainian counter-offensive to retake territories held by the Russians has been reported and talked about. Last year, a similar counter-offensive in East and South had retaken a lot of territories from the Russians ahead of the onset of the winter season.

Retired British Army Brigadier Ben Barry told The Sun that the counter offensive will be like a "big bang" to try and break the stalemate, particularly around Bakhmut, which has lately witnessed some of the most intensive fighting.

Russia has been making "very slow progress at the cost of enormous casualties" in Bakhmut, noted Barry, and added that Ukraine has "said repeatedly 2023 is the year of counteroffensives, where they want to evict Russia from Ukraine".

Barry further said, "Ukraine will want to make sure that offensive works, so we're looking at a 'big bang' concentrated attack, rather than dribbling it away in penny packets. The longer they delay it, the more modern weapons and armour they will have in service and train people to operate it."

The Sun reported that Ukraine is known to be forming a network of new "Storm Brigades" with around 40,000 soldiers.

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"Named Hurricane, Spartan, Chervona Kalyna, Frontier, Rage, Azov and Kara Dag (a mountain in Crimea), Ukraine's new units are preparing to play their role in a decisive new offensive to push back Putin's troops," reported The Sun.

(With AP inputs)

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