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CONCLUSION 2-Russia is preparing for the next stage of the offensive, according to Ukraine

Russia is preparing for the next stage of its offensive in Ukraine, a Ukrainian military official has said, after Moscow announced its forces would step up military operations in “all operational areas”.

As Western deliveries of long-range weapons begin to help Ukraine on the battlefield, Russian rockets and missiles have pounded towns in strikes that Kyiv says have killed dozens in recent days .

“It’s not just about air and sea missile fire,” said Vadym Skibitskyi, spokesman for Ukraine’s military intelligence services, on Saturday evening. “We can see shelling all over the line of contact, all over the front line. There is active use of tactical aviation and attack helicopters.

“Obviously preparations are now underway for the next stage of the offensive.”

The Ukrainian military said Russia appeared to be regrouping units for an offensive towards Sloviansk, a symbolically important city held by Ukraine in the eastern region of Donetsk.

Britain’s Ministry of Defense said on Sunday that Russia was also strengthening defenses in areas it occupies in southern Ukraine after pressure from Ukrainian forces and promises from Ukrainian leaders to oust Russia.

Ukraine says at least 40 people have been killed in Russian shelling of urban areas since Thursday as the war launched by Russian President Vladimir Putin on February 24 escalates.

Dozens of relatives and local residents attended the funeral of 4-year-old Liza Dmytrieva in the central Ukrainian town of Vinnytsia on Sunday. The girl was killed in a missile strike on central Vinnytsia on Thursday that killed 24 people, according to Ukrainian authorities.

Rockets hit the town of Chuhuiv in northeastern Kharkiv region on Friday night, killing three people including a 70-year-old woman and injuring three others, regional governor Oleh Synehubov said.

“Three people lost their lives, why? Why ? Because Putin has gone mad? said Raisa Shapoval, 83, a distraught resident sitting in the ruins of her home.

To the south, more than 50 Russian Grad rockets pounded the town of Nikopol on the Dnipro, killing two people who were found in the rubble, Governor Valentyn Reznichenko said.

EIGHT YEARS LATER

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Russia continues to sow grief and death on Ukrainian soil eight years after the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014. International investigators said the plane was shot down by a Russian surface-to-air missile likely fired by Russian-backed militias in the area.

Zelenskiy said his thoughts are with the loved ones of the dead and nothing will go unpunished. “Every criminal will be brought to justice!” he wrote on Twitter.

Moscow, which calls the invasion a “special military operation” to demilitarize its neighbor and root out nationalists, says it is using high-precision weapons to degrade Ukraine’s military infrastructure and protect its own security. Russia has repeatedly denied targeting civilians.

Kyiv and the West say the conflict is an unprovoked attempt to reclaim a country that broke free from Moscow’s rule with the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu ordered military units to step up operations to prevent Ukrainian strikes on eastern Ukraine and other Russian-held areas, where he said Kyiv could strike civilian infrastructure or residents, according to a ministry statement.

His remarks on Saturday appeared to be a direct response to what Kyiv says were a series of successful strikes on 30 Russian logistics and munitions hubs, using several multiple rocket launcher systems recently supplied by the West.

The strikes are wreaking havoc on Russian supply lines and have significantly reduced Russia’s offensive capability, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry spokesman said on Friday.

He singled out the US-made High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) that Kyiv began receiving last month.

“Greetings from HIMARS,” Andriy Yermak, the Ukrainian president’s chief of staff, wrote on Telegram on Sunday, accompanied by a video showing a large explosion that he said was another destroyed Russian ammunition dump in southern Ukraine. .

Vadym Skibitskyi, a Ukrainian military intelligence official, said on Saturday that HIMARS could be used on targets in Crimea, which was annexed from Ukraine by Russia in 2014 while also supporting armed separatists in the east from Ukraine.

On Sunday, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said the refusal of Ukraine and the NATO powers to recognize Moscow’s authority over Crimea poses a “systemic threat” to Russia, which has its headquarters there. its Black Sea Fleet.

Russian-backed separatists said Ukraine hit the town of Alchevsk, east of Sloviansk, on Saturday with six HIMARS rockets. The so-called Luhansk People’s Republic said the strikes killed two civilians and damaged a bus depot, health camp and apartments.

The Ukrainian armed forces said they hit the bus depot because they had information that it was being used to house Russian troops.

The Russian Defense Ministry said its forces destroyed a launch pad and a reloading vehicle for one of the HIMARS systems deployed near the eastern city of Pokrovsk.

He also said they had shot down a Ukrainian MI-17 helicopter near Sloviansk and an SU-25 aircraft in the Kharkiv region further north and destroyed a depot in Odessa in southern Ukraine which stored anti-missile missiles. -Harpoon ships of NATO countries.

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