Russia steps up bombardments of Kharkiv, where Ukraine had pushed back its forces.

Source: : 2022-06-21 08:50:21 : Valerie Hopkins and Oleksandr Chubko

KYIV, Ukraine — Shelling in and around Ukraine’s second largest city, Kharkiv, has grown worse, weeks after Ukrainian fighters pushed Russian forces back from the northeastern city.

“The shelling is intensifying today, and sharply intensifying since last night,” Kharkiv’s mayor, Ihor Terekhov, said on Ukrainian television on Monday. “Night, morning, day — various districts in the city of Kharkiv are constantly being shelled.”

Ten neighborhoods or villages around the city had been attacked in the past 24 hours, Kharkiv’s head of regional administration, Oleh Synebuhov, said in a Facebook post on Monday. Several people were injured, he wrote, and an older man in the village of Tsurkuny, about 10 miles outside of Kharkiv, died when he stepped on a land mine.

“The Russians continue to terrorize the civilian population,” Mr. Synebuhov added.

Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, warned on Monday that Russia was “trying to gather forces to attack Kharkiv again.”

“We de-occupied this region,” he said in an address to a conference of international policy experts in Italy. “And they want to do it again.”

Last month, the Ukrainian army appeared to have pushed Russian forces back as far as to the border in some parts of the region. But the area around Kharkiv is crucial to Russia’s efforts elsewhere in Ukraine.

The Russian military is using railway lines around Kharkiv to supply troops that appear to be preparing for an assault on the city of Sloviansk, according to the Institute for the Study of War, a research group based in Washington. Military analysts have also said that Russian forces are trying to keep the Ukrainian army occupied along the long front line so that it does not focus all of its energy on the battle for the eastern city of Sievierodonetsk or its counteroffensive in Kherson.

Last week, Amnesty International issued a report accusing Russian forces of launching “a relentless campaign of indiscriminate bombardments against Kharkiv.” In May, the United Nations’ International Organization for Migration estimated that 23 percent of the more than eight million Ukrainians who have had to flee to other parts of the country were from the Kharkiv region.

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