Russian forces are managing to “raise true hell” in Ukraine’s industrial heartland, a regional governor said on Saturday, as deadly shelling by Vladimir Putin's forces continued in the east and south.
The governor of the eastern Luhansk region, Serhiy Haidai, said Russia launched over 20 artillery, mortar and rocket strikes in the province overnight and its forces were pressing toward the border with the Donetsk region.
Ukrainian authorities say the Russian army has continued to bomb Ukraine's eastern Donetsk and northeastern Kharkiv regions on Saturday. According to officials, Moscow is preparing "new actions" after four and a half months of war.
It comes as the US has promised to send its fifteenth aid package worth $400 million (€392 million) in military equipment to Ukraine.
In other developments, Washington has also asked China to condemn "Russian aggression" in Ukraine, while the UK is hosting the first group of Ukrainian soldiers to train them.
World's aggressive movements watching us, says Zelenskyy
The Ukrainian general staff reported Russian shelling in the east and on Kharkiv in the north-east, but no ground offensive, except for an attempt on Dolomitné, near Bakhmut in the east.
The Russian Ministry of Defence claimed to have struck the regions of Donetsk and Kharkiv, where six civilians were injured according to the local Ukrainian prosecutor's office.
The Russian army also claimed to have inflicted significant damage on the Ukrainian army and equipment around Mykolaiv in the south — where the mayor reported explosions heard overnight and asked the population to remain in shelters — as well as in the Dnipropetrovsk region.
Luhansk governor Serhiy Haidai also said on Saturday that Russian forces were targeting the Donetsk region from their bases in Luhansk, where he added there was "no complete occupation" by Russian forces, and "still fighting" going on.
"The eyes of all aggressive political movements and regimes in the world are now on what Russia is doing to us," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy wrote on Instagram on Saturday.
"Will the world be able to bring the real war criminals to justice?" he asked, warning of the risk of "hundreds of other aggressions" if it fails to do so.
Residents flee — though some return despite warnings
Two thirds of Barvinkove in the Kharkiv region have been reduced to rubble after relentless Russian shelling. Despite heavy warnings from the town's mayor, some residents have returned home after a mass evacuation two months ago.
"Where do I go? Name at least one safe place here, where they don't shoot... if we leave for somewhere else... they will still use rockets and fly there," said Mykola, a local resident.
In the east, as in the south of the country, alarm sirens sounded all night. Residents of the small town of Druzhkivka, south of Kramatorsk, were woken up on Saturday by a suspected missile attack that left a huge crater in front of a damaged supermarket.
Russian forces, which announced in early July that they had taken control of the Luhansk region, are now targeting the Donetsk region to occupy the entire Donbas mining basin, which has been partially controlled since 2014 by Moscow-backed separatists after Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimean peninsula.
Moscow's troops do not seem to be carrying out any assaults at the moment, except for an attempt on Dolomitné, near Bakhmut in the east.
Meanwhile the exodus in the eastern Donetsk region continues after invading forces killed six people and injured 21 in incessant strikes. The governor of Donetsk says some 300 civilians are leaving on evacuation trains every day.
"We waited too long. But finally I decided to save my child and myself. There was shelling by every weapon that exists. Even children now know all their names," said Olena, a resident of Sloviansk.
Russian shelling killed at least one person and wounded two in Kryvy Rig, the hometown of Zelenskyy, who visited Ukrainian positions in the central-eastern region of Dnipropetrovsk on Friday.
Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Verechtchuk, quoted by Ukrainian media, called on the population of areas occupied by the Russian army to evacuate by all possible means, warning: "there will be massive fighting".
New US aid to help target Russian depots and supply chains
According to a senior Pentagon official, the new $400 million in US military aid - which includes four Himars multiple rocket launcher systems and 155mm shells - will improve Ukraine's ability to target Russian army weapons depots and supply chains.
Washington has already provided $6.9 billion (€6.7 billion) in military assistance to Kyiv since the Russian invasion began on 24 February. The US also applied diplomatic pressure at a G20 ministerial meeting in Indonesia on Friday.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in a meeting on Saturday to distance himself from Moscow and condemn Russian "aggression" against Ukraine.
The day before, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov walked out of the G20 meeting after facing a torrent of criticism over the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
For its part, the United Kingdom announced on Saturday the arrival of a first group of Ukrainian soldiers as part of an "ambitious new training programme" involving 1,050 British troops. The project was announced on 17 June in Kyiv by Boris Johnson, who has since agreed to step down as prime minister after a series of domestic scandals.