Russian shelling of regions in eastern Ukraine killed at least two people overnight, local officials said Sunday, after Moscow ended a self-declared Christmas ceasefire and vowed to continue fighting until a victory over His neighbor.
President Vladimir Putin ordered a 36-hour ceasefire along the line of contact from noon Friday to observe Russian and Ukrainian Orthodox Christmas, which fell on Saturday.
Ukraine rejected the truce and the general staff of the Ukrainian armed forces said Russian troops had shelled dozens of positions and settlements along the front line on Saturday.
A 50-year-old man was killed in the northeastern Kharkiv region as a result of Russian shelling overnight, Oleh Synehubov, the region’s governor, said on the Telegram messaging app. The news came minutes after midnight in Moscow. One person was killed in another attack overnight in Soledar, in the eastern Donetsk region, local officials said.
Reuters could not immediately verify this.
Most Ukrainian Orthodox Christians have traditionally celebrated Christmas on January 7, as have Orthodox Christians in Russia. But this year, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, the largest in the country, also allowed a celebration on December 25. Still, many observed the holiday on Saturday, flocking to churches and cathedrals.
The Kremlin has said Moscow will go ahead with what it calls a «special military operation» in Ukraine, an invasion it launched on February 24 that Kyiv and its Western allies call an unprovoked land-grabbing aggression.
Ukrainian authorities reported explosions in regions that make up the broader Donbas region, the front line of the war where fighting has been raging for months.
Pavlo Kyrylenko, the governor of Donetsk, said there were nine missile attacks in the region overnight, including seven in the battered city of Kramatorsk.
Explosions were also heard in the city of Zaporizhzhia, the administrative center of the Zaporizhzhia region, a local official said, without giving an immediate report on damage or casualties.
The shells rang out on Saturday in the nearly deserted streets of Bakhmut, an eastern city currently the focus of the most intense fighting.
Serhiy Haidai, the governor of Lugansk in eastern Ukraine, said on television that there was heavy fighting in the region and that Russian forces had deployed their most combat-ready units and heavy equipment to the city of Kriminna they occupy, which he said meant that the Russians were slowly retreating in the region.
With overnight temperatures dipping to minus 5 degrees Fahrenheit, fighting activity would soon pick up as heavy frost means it’s easier to move heavy equipment, Haidai added.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Wednesday that Russia is planning a major new offensive. The Pentagon said Friday that Putin’s goal of seizing Ukrainian territory has not changed, even as his army continues to take blows.
There has been growing concern that Belarus, a staunch supporter of Moscow, could be used as a jumping-off point to attack Ukraine from the north after increased military activity in the country and the new transfer of Russian troops there.
Unofficial Telegram channels monitoring military activity in Belarus reported late Saturday that between 1,400 and 1,600 Russian soldiers had arrived from Russia in the northeastern city of Vitebsk in Belarus over the past two days.
Reuters could not independently verify the information.