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Ukraine: Heavy Russian shelling kills 5 civilians, wounds 18

Ukrainian servicemen of Khartia battalion patrol at the frontline near Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Tuesday, July 12, 2022. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Renewed Russian artillery barrages across Ukraine killed at least five civilians and wounded another 18 in the past day, the office of Ukraine’s president reported Wednesday as Moscow attempted to expand and consolidate its gains in the country’s east.

Most of the deaths occurred in Donetsk province, which is part of a region where pro-Russia separatists have fought for eight years and the Kremlin is intent on capturing. The city of Bakhmut faced particularly heavy shelling as the current focus of Russia’s offensive, Donetsk administrative chief Pavlo Kyrylenko said.

In adjacent Luhansk province, which Russian and separatist forces have all but conquered, Ukrainian soldiers battled to retain control of two outlying villages amid the shelling, Gov. Serhiy Haidai said.

Luhansk and Donetsk together make up Ukraine’s Donbas region, a mostly Russian-speaking region of steel factories, mines and other industries vital to the economy. The Russians are “deliberately turning Donbas into ashes, and there will be just no people left on the territories captured,” Haidai said.

Russian artillery also rained down in northeast Ukraine, where a regional governor, Oleg Syniehubov, accused Russian forces of trying to “terrorize civilians” in Kharkiv, the country’s second-largest city.

With Russia’s sights set on the east, the Ukrainian military has tried to reclaim captured city’s in the south. The Ukrainian military claimed Tuesday to have used missiles to destroy a Russian ammunition depot in occupied Nova Kakhovka, a city east of the Black Sea port of Kherson.

The precision of the depot strike suggested Ukrainian forces had employed U.S.-supplied multiple-launch High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or HIMARS, a type of weapon for which the government in Kyiv repeatedly appealed.

Russia’s Tass news agency said the reported blast occurred when a mineral fertilizer storage facility exploded. Some of the ingredients in fertilizer can be used for ammunition.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian and Russian officials are expected to meet face-to-face Wednesday for the first time in months. Military delegations from the two countries and Turkey plan to hold talks in Istanbul on a potential deal to get grain out of Ukraine’s blockaded and mined ports.

United Nations representatives also were involved in the talks. Ukraine is one of the world’s largest exporters of wheat, corn and sunflower oil, but Russia’s invasion halted shipments, endangering food supplies in many developing countries and contributing to higher global prices.

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