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KYIV, Ukraine — Explosions behind the front line rocked Ukraine on Friday, as a Russian missile demolished part of a hospital complex and apparent Ukrainian attacks sent Russian-held cities under threat of their growing, long-distance war. Killed in aerial combat.

At least two people were killed, three more went missing and at least 30 were wounded in an attack on a medical center in the central city of Dnipro, Ukrainian officials said. It destroyed a three-storey building and damaged several others.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky posted a video on social media A charred building, missing its roof and upper walls, billows smoke into the sky, calling it “another crime against humanity”.

Ukraine is expected to launch a major counteroffensive soon – some analysts say it may already be in its early stages – and both sides have stepped up their offensives ahead of ground clashes. Kiev’s army has increased tempo and range Attacks deep into Russian-held territory primarily on military depots, convoys and troop concentrations, and railroads used by Russian forces.

On Friday, explosions were reported in the Russian-occupied southern city of Berdyansk, about 60 miles from the front, for the second time this week. Vladimir Rogov, a Russian occupation official in southern Ukraine, said several loud explosions rocked Berdyansk overnight and that Russian air defenses repelled a Ukrainian attack, a claim that could not be confirmed.

The Ukrainian military did not comment specifically on Berdyansk, but said that its air force “launched five strikes targeting enemy manpower and equipment groups.” GeoConfirmed is one of several volunteer groups that closely track battlefield movements in Ukraine. posted pictures on twitter showing a large fire and said impacts were reported in Berdyansk, although it was unclear what had been killed.

Two people died in Mariupol, another occupied southern city, about 40 miles from Berdyansk, near the Azovstal Steel Works on Friday night, according to Mariupol city government officials who fled before the Russians took over. Big explosions happened. Russian occupation officials said the explosions were due to Ukrainian missilesThe new supplies were brought in by Britain, according to state news agency Tass.

Following the hospital strike on Dnipro on Friday morning, Russia followed up with one of a sustained overnight barrage aimed at cities and infrastructure far from the battlefield, firing missiles and drones in clusters in an attempt to overwhelm Ukrainian air defenses given. Ukraine’s military said it had destroyed 10 of 17 missiles launched and 23 of 31 attack drones.

“Only an evil state can fight against the clinics,” Mr Zelensky wrote on Twitter. There can be no military purpose in this. This is pure terror.

Russia’s Defense Ministry told state media that it had attacked a Ukrainian ammunition depot.

The city of Dnipro is a center for Ukrainian soldiers wounded in battle, usually their first stop before being taken to hospitals in other parts of the country. It was not clear whether any Ukrainian soldiers were being treated at the facility that was attacked on Friday.

“It was a really difficult night,” said Serhiy Lysak, head of the Dnipro regional government. One of those killed, he said, was a 69-year-old man who was “just passing by” when the hospital was hit.

Since the start of President Vladimir V. Putin’s full-scale invasion 15 months ago, Russia has used the weapon to bomb civilian targets such as hospitals, schools and power plants across Ukraine, which is considered a war crime. The first long-range attacks were completely one-sided and largely unhindered.

But as Ukraine’s military has gained experience and acquired an increasing array of Western weaponry, it has become more adept at deterring such Russian attacks, and more capable of responding in kind.

Last summer, the United States began to supply Ukraine HIMARS rocket artillery Systems with a range of about 50 miles, which made a significant difference in combat. In December, Ukraine showed it could Customize Soviet-era surveillance drones In long-range weapons to strike within Russia. and Britain this month began delivering high-precision, air-launched storm shadow cruise missiles With a range of about 150 miles – enough to reach any corner of Russia-occupied Ukraine.

Afterwards Strike in Berdyansk on SundayLocal Russian officials claimed that Kiev had used newly acquired Storm Shadows.

The Russian military has converted Berdyansk, a port on the Sea of ​​Azov, into a military base, using it as a base for troops and a transit point for suppliesAccording to military analysts.

Russian troops near the front line in the Donetsk region broke a dam Ukraine’s regional administrator Pavlo Kirilenko said on Friday that the Vovcha River was flooded on Thursday, flooding downstream, threatening six villages, home to about 1,000 people. The strike may be a bid to disrupt Ukrainian military movements behind the lines, a tactic used by both sides in the war.

The government of Ukraine has repeatedly warned about the risk of Russia blow up the huge kakhovka dam On the Dnieper River, a very wide area was submerged and the reservoir that cooled the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant was depleted, causing an emergency there.

Late Friday, Ukrainian military intelligence warned that the Russians plan to create an emergency at the power plant they have captured, “in the next few hours” to provide a pretext for a ceasefire that could Will stop retaliatory action. The Ukrainian government has issued warnings about threats to the plant, but has rarely been so specific.

Plant “will be struck”, followed by intelligence announcement of radioactive leak said on telegram, saying that the Russians would blame Ukraine. The Ukrainian nuclear power company Energoatom repeated the allegation.

The Ukrainians offered no evidence for the claim, making it unclear whether it could be a case of misinformation intended to keep the Russians off balance. Hours later, a Russian occupation official claimed that it was the Ukrainians who were planning to create an emergency at the plant.

A US official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters, said the United States is closely monitoring the situation, but has not received any information to support the idea that an incident has been planned. The official said the United States has direct access to data from radiation sensors in the area.

The UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency has inspectors based at the Zaporizhia plant, and there was a rotation of some arriving and leaving on Friday. Ukrainians said the Russians intercepted it. The Russian state energy company that oversees the plant told Tass that the Ukrainians had blocked it.

The UN agency declined to comment.

On the diplomatic front, Pope Francis, who has offered the Vatican as a mediator, refused to support the position of Ukraine and many of its Western backers, that Russia should return all Ukrainian territories it had seized. Will happen. Kiev has said peace is a prerequisite for talks, otherwise, any ceasefire would consolidate Russian gains.

in an interview on Thursday, in Spanish, with telemundo networkFrancis was asked twice whether Russia should leave the region. For the first time, he did not answer the question directly.

“This is a political issue,” he said a second time. “Once they can talk to each other peace will be found.”

Andrew E. Kramer And maria varennikova Contributed reporting from Pokrovsk, Ukraine and Julian E. Barnes from Washington.

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