Ukraine and Russia trade deadly shelling as Moscow’s troops struggle to forge border ‘buffer zone’

Russian security service claims to foil Ukrainian bomb attacks on senior officers and aircraft carrier

Volunteers clearing broken windows from a kindergarten destroyed by a Russian missile strike on Kyiv, Ukraine. Photograph: Anatolii Stepanov/AFP

Kyiv and Moscow blamed each other’s forces for deadly shelling as the Kremlin said its troops were still trying to create a “buffer zone” in the Kharkiv region of eastern Ukraine to prevent strikes on the neighbouring Russian province of Belgorod.

Two people were killed and one injured in a Russian air strike on the Black Sea region of Odesa that also damaged port infrastructure and a civilian ship, Ukrainian officials said, adding that air defence units had shot down 14 of 20 explosive-laden drones and three of five missiles launched in the early hours of Wednesday. An energy facility in the western Rivne region was also damaged.

One person was killed and nine injured by Ukrainian shelling of the town of Shebekino in Belgorod region, according to provincial governor Vyacheslav Gladkov. “As of now in the town it has been established that three apartment buildings, two social facilities, five commercial facilities and an industrial enterprise were damaged. Twenty cars were also damaged,” he wrote on social media.

Russian troops launched a new ground assault in May into Kharkiv region, across the border from Belgorod, attacking the town of Volchansk and seizing several deserted or sparsely populated villages near the frontier.

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Ukraine and military analysts said Russia sought to exploit long delays in provision of US military aid to Kyiv at the time and to stretch its forces thin by extending the front line, but Russian president Vladimir Putin said he wanted to create a buffer zone to shield Belgorod region from shelling and cross-border raids.

Two months on Russia has not made significant gains in Kharkiv region and has suffered heavy losses in the area, according to Kyiv and western intelligence services.

When asked on Wednesday about the attempt to create a buffer zone, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “Everything that is happening now in this area is dedicated to this task. Of course, the realisation of this task takes time…Work is being done on this.”

The heaviest fighting continues in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region, where Russian troops are in the outskirts of Chasiv Yar, a strategic town on relatively high ground about 10km west of Bakhmut, a small city that Russia took in May 2023 after months of fighting that left it in ruins.

Moscow military claimed on Tuesday to have taken the Donetsk-region village of Yasnoborodivka, about 40km east of the Kyiv-controlled city of Pokrovsk and 15km west of Avdiivka, another devastated small city that Russia occupied in February.

Russia’s FSB security service said it had foiled Ukrainian plots to recruit Russians to send parcel bombs to three high-ranking Russian military officers and to cause an explosion on the Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier in the northern port of Murmansk. Kyiv did not immediately comment on the claims.

Daniel McLaughlin

Daniel McLaughlin

Daniel McLaughlin is a contributor to The Irish Times from central and eastern Europe