KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russian shelling killed at least 10 Ukrainian civilians and wounded 20 others in a day, the office of Ukraine’s president said Friday as the country worked to recover from an earlier wave of Russian missile strikes and drone attacks.
The new deaths included at least two civilians in the southern city of Kherson, which Ukrainian troops recaptured in November, and two more in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk province. The missiles and self-propelled drones Russian forces fired Thursday hit deeper into Ukrainian territory, killing at least 11 people.
The bombardments followed announcements by the United States and Germany of plans to ship powerful tanks to help Ukraine defend itself. Other Western countries said they also would share modern tanks from their stockpiles.
Moscow has bristled at the move, and accused Western nations of entering a new level of confrontation with Russia.
Donetsk Gov. Pavlo Kyrylenko said the Russian military used fiercely-burning phosphorus munitions in its shelling of the village of Zvanivka, about 20 kilometers north of Bakhmut, a city that has become the focus of a grueling standoff in recent months. The shelling also damaged apartment buildings and two schools in the nearby town of Vuhledar, Kyrylenko said.
The governor of the neighboring Luhansk region, Serhii Haidai, said Ukrainian shelling hit two Russian bases in the occupied towns of Kreminna and Rubizhne, killing and wounding “dozens” of Russian soldiers. His claim couldn’t be independently verified.
Further south, Russian troops resumed shelling the town of Nikopol, across the Dnieper from the Russia-held Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, damaging apartment buildings, gas pipelines, power lines and a bakery, officials said.
Separately on Friday, Russian authorities took new steps in their months-long and widely criticized effort to graft four Ukrainian provinces onto Russia’s already vast territory. They said the illegally annexed provinces would change from the time zone that covers Kyiv to the one in Moscow.
The switch in the Ukrainian southern and eastern regions that Russia declared as part of its territory four months ago — Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson — will take place “in the near future,” Russia’s Ministry of Industry and Trade said. The move comes as part of what the ministry called the “gradual synchronization” of Russian legislation after the “admission of the four subjects.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s highly orchestrated announcement of the illegal annexations came despite widespread international condemnation and the fact that Russia didn’t fully control the areas it annexed. Russia claims to control nearly all of Luhansk and about half of Donetsk.
Less than 1-1/2 months after the annexations, Russia lost control of the city of Kherson and broad swaths of the surrounding territory following a Ukrainian counteroffensive. Kherson was the only regional capital Russia seized since starting its invasion on Feb. 24, and its loss dealt a heavy blow to the Kremlin.
Planned Western deployments of modern tanks for Ukraine remained on many minds on Friday.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki told Canada’s CTV that his country was ready to send 60 modern tanks — half of them the PT-91 model, which was built in Poland from 1994 to 2001 as a modernized version of the Soviet-era T-72M1. He said those deliveries would come on top of Poland’s plans to send 14 of its Leopard 2s, after Berlin approved other allies sending the German-made tanks to Ukraine.
On Friday, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the supply of Western tanks to Ukraine would not change the situation in Kyiv’s favor, but rather “bring the countries of the West to a new level of confrontation with our country and our people.”
The German government insisted Friday that it does not see itself in direct conflict with Russia, after Moscow seized on comments by Germany’s top diplomat this week that suggested otherwise.
During a debate Tuesday with lawmakers at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Foreign Minister Annelena Baerbock said it was important for European countries to avoid a “blame game” when it comes to discussing support for Ukraine “because we are fighting a war against Russia and not against each other.”
Asked about those comments, German government spokeswoman Christiane Hoffmann referred to a line laid out by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and told reporters in Berlin on Friday that “the chancellor has always emphasized that NATO and Germany are not parties to this war of attack by Russia against Ukraine.”
“We support Ukraine, but we are not parties to the war,” she added.
In other developments:
– German officials said the country was targeted by a series of cyberattacks of apparent Russian origin this week following the decision to supply modern tanks to Ukraine. A spokeswoman for the Interior Ministry said the so-called denial of service attacks, in which websites or entire networks are bombarded with requests in an attempt to make them inaccessible, were observed on Wednesday and Thursday, and “were largely fought off or had no serious impact.”
– Ukrainian air force spokesman Yurii Ihnat said Russia used its latest hypersonic Kinzhal missiles to strike energy facilities in Kyiv and Zaporizhzhia regions Thursday. He said Ukraine lacks defenses against the Kinzhal, adding that Russia has few such missiles and mostly uses them against priority targets.
Ihnat said in televised remarks that Russia also used Kh-55 missiles — air-launched missiles that were designed to carry nuclear warheads — with dummy warheads to distract Ukraine’s air defenses.
– Russian state-run media say the state communications watchdog has restricted access to the CIA and FBI websites for allegedly spreading materials “containing inaccurate socially significant information” and “discrediting” Russia’s armed forces. The Russian government has made it illegal to discredit its troops or spread “false information” about the military.
Monika Scislowska in Warsaw and Frank Jordans in Berlin contributed to this report.
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