By SUSIE BLANN – Associated Press
KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Rescuers have recovered three bodies from a school hit by a Russian strike in eastern Ukraine, officials said Friday, one of a series of attacks across the country.
The casualties in the city of Kramatorsk followed a barrage on Thursday in a densely populated area of Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, which killed at least three people and injured 23.
In the most significant agreement involving the warring parties to date, Russian and Ukrainian officials have signed agreements with the UN and Turkey to avert a global food crisis by clearing the way for the shipment of millions tonnes of Ukrainian cereals and certain Russian exports of cereals and fertilizers. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address that the agreements offer “a chance to prevent a global catastrophe – a famine that could lead to political chaos in many countries of the world, especially in countries that help us” .
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Yet the war that has blocked these grain shipments for nearly five months has not subsided. Russia this week reiterated its intention to seize territories beyond eastern Ukraine, where the Russian army is trying to conquer the Donbass region, including the provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk.
The office of the Ukrainian president said that in a city in Donbass, Kramatorsk, Russian shelling destroyed a school and damaged 85 residential buildings. Ukraine’s National Emergency Agency said rescuers found three bodies in the ruins of the school, which was hit on Thursday.
“Russia’s strikes on schools and hospitals are very painful and reflect its true aim of reducing peaceful towns to rubble,” Donetsk Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said in a televised address, reiterating his call for the evacuation of inhabitants.
Russia gave a different account of the attack. Defense Ministry spokesman Lt. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said Thursday’s strike killed more than 300 Ukrainian soldiers using Kramatorsk School No. 23 as a base. He said another strike destroyed an ammunition depot in the southern city of Mykolaiv.
Konashenkov also said Russian forces destroyed four US-supplied high-mobility artillery rocket systems between July 5 and July 20. The United States said it provided 12 of the multiple rocket launchers to Ukraine. The claims could not be independently verified.
A senior U.S. defense official, who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity in accordance with department rules, said Thursday that Russia has yet to eliminate a single HIMARS, but is likely to have ” lucky” and to do it at some point.
The United States announced on Friday that, as part of a new $270 million security assistance package, it will deliver four additional HIMARS to Ukraine. The package will see Kyiv acquire up to 580 Phoenix Ghost drones, around 36,000 artillery rounds and more guided rockets known as GMLRS.
Ukrainian forces used US-made rocket launchers and tactical drones to keep larger and more heavily equipped Russian forces at bay. The Ukrainian military has used HIMARS, which have higher range and better accuracy compared to similar Soviet-era systems in Russian and Ukrainian inventory, to strike Russian munitions depots and other key targets.
In the Dnipro region of central Ukraine, three schools were destroyed in the latest Russian strikes, Ukrainian authorities said. Seven Russian missiles hit the small town of Apostolove, injuring 18 residents.
Regional Governor Valentyn Reznichenko called the attack “senseless”.
“There are no military objectives behind this, and this bombardment can only be explained by their desire to keep people in suspense and to sow panic and fear,” Reznichenko said.
In other developments Friday:
– Britain’s Ministry of Defense said it believes Russia is experiencing “critical shortages” of dedicated ground attack missiles and has therefore increased its use of air defense missiles “in secondary ground attack mode “. The ministry said Russia had “almost certainly” deployed S-300 and S-400 strategic air defense systems designed to shoot down long-range aircraft and missiles, and that there was a “high chance” that they miss their targets and cause civilian attacks. victims.
– The top US defense official says the fight for Donetsk “is expected to last all summer” with Russia making slow gains at a high cost. The official said Russia was launching tens of thousands of artillery rounds a day, but had used a lot of “smarter munitions” and “couldn’t go on forever”.
— A member of the city council of Russia’s third-largest city has been charged with spreading false information about the Russian armed forces and could face up to three years in prison if convicted. The criminal case against Novosibirsk council member Helga Pirogova was opened on Friday, according to Russian news agency RIA-Novosti. Investigators found that she “published deliberately false information under the guise of a reliable message containing data on the use of the Russian armed forces,” the report said, without giving further details. Latvia-based independent media Meduza said the investigation began after a tweet by Pirogova criticizing the “luxurious” funerals of Russians killed in Ukraine.
Nomaan Merchant in Washington contributed to this report.
Follow AP coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine
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