Mykolaiv, Ukraine – A day after Ukrainian forces pushed Russian forces beyond the city limits of Mykolaiv, the Russians on Monday launched a fierce artillery attack on a southern Ukrainian city, hitting residential neighborhoods with missiles and sending streams of people fleeing for safety.
At about five in the morning, the city awoke to a barrage that lit up the dark sky. Residents took refuge in cellars and trucks loaded with Ukrainian troops rushed to the east of the city, where the fighting appeared to be most intense. At some point during the day, a fierce tank battle broke out between Russian and Ukrainian forces defending Mykolaiv Airport, with explosions heard throughout the city.
The initial attack in the early morning killed at least eight Ukrainian soldiers, when a Kalibr cruise missile hit the barracks where they were sleeping, Vitaly Kim, Governor of the Mykolaiv region He said in a Facebook message. 19 others were injured and 8 are still missing.
“They attacked our city in a shameful and taunting manner while people were sleeping,” Mr. Kim said.
But by evening, the guns had died down, and Ukrainian officials announced that their forces had once again repelled the Russian attack.
“They back off and run away,” Mr. Kim said, although this could not be independently verified. “There is nothing left of their tanks, as far as I know.”
Mr Kim said a group of about 20 Russian soldiers had fled into the forest, and urged residents to contact the police in case they encountered.
Mykolaiv, a port city of about 500,000 people located on the Southern Buh River near the Black Sea, is a critical target of Russian forces. The city is on its way to Odessa, on the Black Sea and home to Ukraine’s largest port. Odessa, a city of more than one million people, is the country’s main outlet to the global economy.
The Russian army’s failure so far to capture the city corresponds to its faltering efforts elsewhere in the country. Although the Russian forces are much larger than the Ukrainian army and with more advanced weapons and air superiority, they are bogged down almost everywhere in the country, struggling with logistical problems, it seems that the morale of the soldiers is weak and tactical mistakes have taken advantage of the Ukrainian forces.
Unable to make significant military gains through precision attacks, the Russians appear to have resorted to a campaign of terror in Ukrainian towns and villages.
Although the heaviest shelling of the day in Mykolaiv took place at the front-line positions, as in other places, the missiles rained down on civilian neighborhoods.
Several rockets landed in a densely populated neighborhood in the far east of the city, shattering windows and shooting shrapnel into walls and appliances. There were no immediate reports of casualties, but residents were shocked, often invoking the name of Russian President Vladimir Putin in a torrent of profanity.
“He told Putin that he was killing peaceful people,” said 48-year-old Olga Kololiova, crying as she stood in the kitchen of her wrecked home. Glass had flown out of her front window and her front door had been shattered. She said she hid in her bathroom while the missiles were falling.
“He thinks we should submit to him?” She said. “I want him to go through what I went through this morning.”
Victor Forboye had just gotten back to bed after smoking an early morning cigarette on his balcony when a missile hit outside, blowing off the balcony glass and raining debris on it. A day earlier, he had moved his mother to his apartment after her neighborhood was bombed in an earlier attack. Neither of them was hurt on Monday.
“I was lucky,” he said, his voice still trembling, “it means that the angel is protecting me.”
Residents of an apartment building shelter in a basement usually used as a gymnasium; The sound of artillery fire shook the walls. Margarita Andreeva accused Russia of distorting what she called the sacred victory over the Nazis in World War II, in which Ukrainians and Russians fought together.
“And now Germany is giving us weapons to defend ourselves from the Russians,” she said. “This is ridiculous. What would our ancestors think?”
By Monday noon, the soundtrack of incoming and outgoing artillery fire across the city had reached a massive volume.
Contacted via WhatsApp on the front line Monday morning, Colonel Svyatoslav Stetsenko of the 59th Ukrainian Army Brigade said that Ukrainian forces are thwarting Russian forces with their artillery.
He said, “The best way to preserve yourself is to destroy the enemy that is attacking you.”
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