Russia strikes Ukrainian houses, evacuates Kherson and warns of escalation

MYKOLAIV: Russia fired missiles and drones at the Ukrainian-held southern city of Mykolaiv, destroying a building, and said the war was tending towards an “uncontrolled escalation” in a flurry of phone calls to Western security ministers Defense.
The strike on the shipbuilding town about 35 km (22 miles) northwest of the front line in Kherson came as Russia ordered 60,000 people to flee the region “for your lives” in the face of a Ukrainian counteroffensive.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu spoke of the “rapidly deteriorating situation” in phone calls with his British, French and Turkish counterparts, the ministry said.
He also spoke by telephone with US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin for the second time in three days. The Pentagon said Austin told Shoigu he “dismisses any excuse for Russian escalation.”
Without providing evidence, Shoigu said Ukraine could escalate using a “dirty bomb” or conventional explosives containing radioactive material.
Ukraine does not possess nuclear weapons, while Russia has declared that it could protect its territory with its nuclear arsenal.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba dismissed the accusation, calling it “absurd” and “dangerous”, adding: “Russians often accuse others of what they themselves are up to.”
In a joint statement after the talks, Britain, France and the United States said they were committed to supporting Ukraine “for as long as it takes” and dismissed the warning from the Russia regarding a “dirty bomb”.
“Our countries have made it clear that we all reject Russia’s patently false allegations that Ukraine is preparing to use a dirty bomb on its own territory,” they said.
“The world would see through any attempt to use this allegation as a pretext for escalation.”
Sunday’s missile strike in Mykolaiv obliterated the top floor of the building, sending shrapnel and debris into a square and nearby buildings, a Reuters witness said. No deaths were recorded.
“After the first explosion, I tried to get out, but the door was stuck,” said Oleksandr Mezinov, 50, who was woken from his bed by the explosions. “After a minute or two there was a second loud blast. Our door was blown out into the hallway.”
On Sunday, Ukraine’s General Staff said anti-aircraft defenses had shot down 12 Iranian-made Russian Shahed-136 attack drones in the past 24 hours.
Tehran denies supplying arms to Russia.
Ukraine’s advances in recent weeks around Kherson and in the northeast of the country have been met with an intensification of Russian missile and drone attacks on civilian infrastructure, which destroyed around 40% of Ukraine’s electricity system before Winter.
Russian troops have withdrawn from parts of the front and occupation authorities are evacuating civilians deeper into Russian-held territory ahead of an expected battle for Kherson, the regional capital on the west bank of the Dnipro.
Kherson is a gateway to Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014.
“The situation today is difficult. It is vital to save your lives,” Russian Education Minister Sergei Kravtsov said in a video message. “It won’t be for long. You will definitely come back.”
Russian-installed authorities reported an insufficient number of ships to transport people across the river at one point on Sunday, blaming a “sharp increase in the number of people wanting to leave”.
About 25,000 people have been evacuated since Tuesday, the Interfax news agency said.
The Ukrainian army said it was advancing south, taking control of at least two villages it said Russia had abandoned.
The Russian Defense Ministry said on Sunday that its forces had continued attacks on Ukraine’s energy and military infrastructure, destroyed a major ammunition depot in the central Cherkasy region and repelled Ukrainian counteroffensives in the south and ballast.
Reuters could not independently verify the accounts.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russian attacks on energy infrastructure had struck on a “very large” scale.
As the war is about to enter its ninth month and winter approaches, the potential for freezing misery looms.
Volodymyr KudritskyHead of Ukraine’s national energy company, Ukrenergo, said power had been restored to more than 1.5 million customers after the weekend’s massive attacks on energy targets.
Moscow has admitted targeting energy infrastructure but denies targeting civilians in what it calls a “special military operation” in Ukraine.
Ukraine has also accused Russia of obstructing a deal on grain exports through the Black Sea, saying its ports were operating at only 25% to 30% capacity.
The pact, brokered by the United Nations and Turkey in July, paved the way for Ukraine to resume grain exports from Black Sea ports that had been closed since Russia’s invasion.


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