February 27, 2024

Three children among the dead, says official, as the Russian attack triggers fire and damages homes.

An overnight Russian drone attack has killed at least seven people, including three children, in Ukraine’s eastern city of Kharkiv, officials say.

Regional Governor Oleg Synegubov said on Telegram on Saturday three children, aged seven, four, and six months, were among the victims after the strikes hit at least 15 houses, causing large-scale fires.

Kharkiv, about 30km (18 miles) from the Russia-Ukraine border, has often felt the brunt of Russia’s winter campaign of long-range strikes that commonly hit civilian areas.

On January 23, a barrage of missiles struck Kharkiv and two other Ukrainian cities in one of the heaviest bombardments since the start of the year. At least 11 people were killed as about 5,000 windows in 222 buildings were broken by the blasts and shockwaves throughout the region, officials said.

It marked what the United Nations called “an alarming reversal” of a trend last year that saw a drop in civilian casualties from Moscow’s attacks.

The city with a pre-war population of 1.5 million is Ukraine’s most vulnerable urban centre. Russia lies north and east of it, and the border of Moscow-annexed Luhansk region is about 150km (90 miles) to the southeast.

Since day one of the full-scale invasion in February 2022, Russian forces have tried to seize Kharkiv, dispatching armed personnel carriers almost to the city centre.

Moscow has deployed strategic bombers, ballistic or cruise missiles, and Iranian or Russian-made drones that take just minutes to reach the city from across the border.

Unlike the capital, Kyiv, which received advanced Western air defence systems within months, Kharkiv remains almost defenceless. Residents and authorities have had to adapt quickly as any delays mean lost lives.

Russian strikes keep Ukrainians on edge while the 1,500-km (930-mile) front line has barely budged. Both sides’ inability to deliver major gains on the battlefield has pushed the fighting towards trench and artillery warfare.

Ukraine’s struggles with ammunition and personnel come on the heels of a failed counteroffensive last summer and as European allies try to bump up their military production.

To shake things up, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Thursday appointed Oleksandr Syrsky as the new head of Ukraine’s armed forces. The move amounted to the most serious change of the top military brass since the start of the war.

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