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New Russian Attacks Kill Civilians in Ukraine’s Donbas Region

A Ukrainian soldier of the 28th Brigade fires during a battle with Russian troops at the front line near Bakhmut, Donetsk region, Ukraine, March 24, 2023.
A Ukrainian soldier of the 28th Brigade fires during a battle with Russian troops at the front line near Bakhmut, Donetsk region, Ukraine, March 24, 2023.

Russian forces fired a barrage of missiles Friday on northern and southern sections of the front line in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region.

At least 10 civilians were killed and 20 were wounded in several parts of Ukraine by the missile strikes, according to regional officials. Five people died in Kostiantynivka in eastern Ukraine's Donetsk province when a missile hit an aid station.

Officials in Kyiv said the Russians attacked with S-300 anti-aircraft missiles. According to Donetsk Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko, the Russians targeted the Center for the Registration of Homeless Persons, which recently also worked as the Point of Invincibility, where war-stricken residents could warm up, recharge their cellphones and get food. Five refugees lived in the destroyed wing at the time of the attack.

Russian forces also used air-launched missiles, exploding drones and gliding bombs to attack several regions, Ukrainian air force spokesman Yurii Ihnat said.

Two civilians were killed and nine were wounded in the town of Bilopillia in Sumy province overnight in airstrikes and rocket and artillery attacks, according to officials in the northeastern region. In southern Ukraine, Russian shelling killed one person in the city of Kherson.

Ukrainian forces are poised for a counteroffensive in the spring as warmer weather sets in and new weapons, including tanks, are coming in from the West to dislodge Russian troops from occupied areas.

Dmitry Medvedev, Russia’s former president and now deputy head of the country's Security Council chaired by President Vladimir Putin, said its forces were ready to repel a counterattack.

“Our General Staff is assessing all that,” he said. Medvedev asserted that any Ukrainian attempt to take Crimea, which Russia illegally annexed in 2014, could trigger a nuclear response from Moscow.

“An attempt to split part of the state away means an encroachment at the very existence of the state,” he said. “Quite obviously, it warrants the use of any weapons. I hope our ‘friends’ across the ocean realize that.”

Medvedev’s warning echoes Russia's security doctrine on the use of nuclear weapons in response to a nuclear attack or one with conventional weapons that threatens “the very existence of the Russian state.”

Additionally, Medvedev said Western weapons, such as the U.S.-made Patriot air defense missile systems supplied to Ukraine, could be targeted. Russian officials claim that foreign instructors stationed in Ukraine to train Ukrainian soldiers would also be targeted.

“If Patriot or other weapons are delivered to the territory of Ukraine along with foreign experts, they certainly make legitimate targets, which must be destroyed,” Medvedev said in video posted to his messaging app channel. “They are combatants, they are the enemies of our state, and they must be destroyed.”

Kyiv denies this assertion and says soldiers are receiving their training in the U.S.


Latest Developments in Ukraine: March 24

Medvedev disclosed that the Kremlin wants to create a "sanitary cordon” of up to 100 kilometers around Russian-held areas, so that short- and medium-range weapons can't hit them.

He asserted that Moscow may even try to grab a chunk of Ukrainian territory stretching all the way to the Polish border.

In an attempt to counter the rising threat from Russia, air force commanders from Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark said Friday that they had signed a letter of intent to create a unified Nordic air defense.

The intention is to be able to operate jointly based on known ways under NATO, according to statements by the four countries' armed forces.

The move to integrate the air forces was triggered by Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February last year, commander of the Danish air force, Major General Jan Dam, told Reuters.

In its daily assessment of the war, Britain’s Defense Ministry said that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has “severely dislocated the Russian military’s training system.”

In a Twitter post Friday, the ministry said Russia has “likely redeployed at least 1,000 troops who had been training at the Obuz-Lesnovsky training ground in southwestern Belarus.”

Russia has likely not dismantled the tented training camp, the British intelligence update said, suggesting that Russia “is considering continuing the training program” under the “much less experienced Belarusian army.”

Some material for this report came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.