Russia widened its military attacks in Ukraine on Friday, striking in some major western locations for the first time amid ongoing peace talks that have failed to produce any meaningful results.
The new Russian airstrikes started just before dawn as Moscow’s military rained bombs on some locations, Ukraine’s Emergency Service said.
Two boiler houses were shut in Lutsk, near the Poland border, while significant explosions were reported in the western city of Ivano-Frankivsk. Dnipro, in central Ukraine, also faced Russian rockets.
“Dnipro is also under attack,” Mykhailo Podoliak, an adviser in Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s office, said on Friday, according to CNN. “Russia’s destructive war against civilians and major cities continue.”
Lutsk Mayor Ihor Polishchuk said that explosions could be seen in the direction of the city’s airfield and called for residents to take shelter.
The new attacks Friday came after Russian and Ukrainian foreign ministers failed to make any progress in face-to-face peace talks on Thursday. Ukraine has called for an immediate cease-fire while Russia continues to demand that Kyiv disarm and recognize two eastern separatist-held regions as independent.
The United Nations says more than 2.5 million Ukrainians have fled the country, with about 1.5 million of them winding up in Poland.
“The escalation of conflict in Ukraine has caused the destruction of civilian infrastructure and civilian casualties and has forced people to flee their homes seeking safety, protection and assistance,” the U.N. said in a statement.
“They are in need of protection and support. As the situation continues to unfold, an estimated four million people may flee Ukraine.”
Russian defense minister Sergei Shoigu said on Friday that Russian President Vladimir Putin has approved opening the war to some 16,000 volunteer fighters from Moscow-friendly places in the Middle East, such as Syria. The move allows Russia to bolster its forces without any additional risk to Russian troops.
Russia’s intensification of attacks on Friday is at least partly a result of Ukraine’s success so far at repelling attacks and keeping troops out of some key cities, like Kyiv. A 40-mile-long Russian military column that was heading for Kyiv two weeks ago has now mostly dispersed and troops appear to be regrouping.
“Ukraine’s tactic of targeting supply lines has worked well, especially during the first 5-10 days of the war,” Thomas Bullock, senior analyst at Janes, told CNN. “This was partially down to Ukrainian tactics and partially down to how Russia was operating.”
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