• Ukraine says civilian gas station hit in Lviv
  • Russia claims to have hit hundreds of military targets
  • Ukrainian fighters resist in parts of Mariupol
  • Mariupol commander asks Pope to help save lives

LVIV/KYIV, April 18 (Reuters) – Ukraine said on Monday Russia had launched an anticipated new offensive in the east of the country as a Russian missile attack killed seven people in Lviv, the first civilian casualties in the western city about 60 km (40 miles) from Poland.

Ukrainian officials said Russian shelling killed four more people in the eastern region of Donetsk on Monday, while a man and a woman were killed in Kharkiv, in the northeast, when shells hit a rest area. games near a residential building. Read more

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Russian forces had begun the “battle of Donbass” after senior officials said Moscow launched a new offensive push along most of Ukraine’s eastern flank. Read more

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“A very large part of the whole Russian army is now focused on this offensive,” Zelenskiy said in a video address, adding, “No matter how many Russian soldiers they send there, we will fight. We we will defend.”

Ukrainian media reported a series of explosions, some powerful, along the front line in the Donetsk region, with shelling in Marinka, Slavyansk and Kramatorsk. Ukrainian officials and local media also said new explosions were heard in Kharkiv, Mykolaiv in the south and Zaporizhzhia in the southeast.

Reuters was not immediately able to verify the information.

Earlier, Ukraine’s top security official Oleksiy Danilov said Russian forces on Monday tried to break through Ukrainian defenses “along almost the entire frontline of the Donetsk, Luhansk and Kharkiv regions.”

Zelenskiy’s chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, called it “the second phase of the war” and assured the Ukrainians that their forces could repel the offensive. “Believe in our army, it is very strong,” he said. Read more

Maksym Kozytskyy, the governor of Lviv, said preliminary reports suggested there had been four strikes there, three at warehouses and another at a petrol station.

“It was a barbaric strike at a gas station, it’s an entirely civilian facility,” he told a news conference.

Lviv Mayor Andriy Sadoviy said the blast also injured 11 and shattered the windows of a hotel housing evacuees from elsewhere in the country. Read more

“Seven peaceful people had life plans, but today their lives came to a halt,” he said.

Pushed back by Ukrainian resistance in the north, Moscow refocused its ground offensive in the two eastern provinces known as Donbass, while launching long-range strikes on other targets including the capital, kyiv.

The Kharkiv regional governor said authorities were continuing to evacuate people from two areas where they expected fighting.

The Russian Defense Ministry said it hit hundreds of military targets in Ukraine overnight. He said air-launched missiles destroyed 16 military installations across Ukraine.

He added that the Russian Air Force launched strikes against 108 areas where Ukrainian forces were concentrated and that Russian artillery hit 315 Ukrainian military targets. Read more

HOWIZER TRAINING

Western capitals and kyiv accuse Russian President Vladimir Putin of unprovoked aggression.

Russia denies targeting civilians in what it calls a special operation aimed at demilitarizing Ukraine and eradicating dangerous nationalists. He rejects what Ukraine sees as evidence of atrocities, saying Ukraine staged them to undermine peace talks.

Last week, US President Joe Biden announced an additional $800 million in military aid to Ukraine, expanding aid to include heavy artillery ahead of a wider Russian assault expected in eastern Ukraine. .

The US military plans to start training Ukrainians in the use of howitzer artillery in the coming days, a senior US defense official said on Monday, adding that the training would take place outside Ukraine. . Read more

French President Emmanuel Macron said on Monday that his dialogue with Putin had stalled after the discovery of massacres in Ukraine. Read more

‘HELL ON EARTH’

Russia is trying to take full control of the southeastern port city of Mariupol, which has been under siege for weeks and would be a huge strategic prize, linking territory held by pro-Russian separatists in the east with the region of Crimea which Moscow annexed in 2014.

Major Serhiy Volyna, commander of Ukraine’s 36th Marine Brigade still fighting in Mariupol, appealed for help in a letter to Pope Francis, saying women and children were trapped among the fighters in the city’s steel mills .

“This is what hell on earth looks like… It’s time (for) help, not just through prayers. Save our lives from satanic hands,” the letter reads, according to excerpts tweeted by the ambassador. from Ukraine to the Vatican.

As many as 1,000 civilians were hiding in underground shelters under the vast Azovstal steelworks, the city council announced on Monday. Read more

Video and audio footage showed rumbling explosions and smoke rising from the steelworks, which contains myriad buildings, blast furnaces and railway tracks.

Azovstal is the main remaining stronghold of Ukrainian forces in Mariupol. The city’s defenders include Ukrainian marines, motorized brigades, a National Guard brigade and the Azov Regiment, a militia created by far-right nationalists that was later integrated into the National Guard.

Denis Prokopenko, a lieutenant colonel in the Azov regiment, said in a Telegram video post that while he was at the steelworks, Russian and separatist forces were dropping bunker busters and blasting the area with rockets and other weapons, including ships, “knowing that there are civilians here.”

The Russian invasion has damaged or destroyed up to 30% of Ukraine’s infrastructure at a cost of $100 billion, a Ukrainian minister has said, adding that reconstruction could be achieved in two years using frozen Russian assets to help finance it. Read more

The United Nations said on Monday that the number of civilian war casualties had exceeded 2,000, reaching 2,072 by midnight on April 17 since the Russian invasion began on February 24.

Around 4 million Ukrainians have fled the country.

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Reporting by Reuters journalists in Kyiv and Lviv; Additional reporting by Lidia Kelly in Melbourne and Ronald Popeski in Winnipeg and Reuters offices worldwide; Written by Alexandra Hudson, Keith Weir and David Brunnstrom; Editing by Edmund Blair, Nick Macfie, Cynthia Osterman and Lincoln Feast.

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.