Russian shelling has killed at least eight civilians in Ukraine in the past 24 hours and injured 25 others, Ukrainian officials said.
Meanwhile, pro-Russian separatists said attacks by Ukrainian forces had killed four civilians.
Ukraine’s presidential office said Russian forces had targeted towns and villages in the southeast of the country, with most civilian casualties occurring in Donetsk province, where Russia has stepped up its offensive in recent days.
Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said in a Telegram post that two people died in the province’s central town of Avdiivka, and the Donetsk towns of Sloviansk, Krasnohorivka and Kurakhove each reported the death of one civilian. .
“Every crime will be punished,” he wrote.
Mr Kyrylenko urged the province’s more than 350,000 remaining residents to flee on Tuesday night, saying the evacuation of Donetsk was necessary to save lives and allow the Ukrainian army to better defend itself against the Russian advance.
Donetsk is part of Donbass, a predominantly Russian-speaking industrial area where the most experienced Ukrainian soldiers are concentrated.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday declared the complete seizure of the region’s other province, Lugansk, after Ukrainian troops withdrew from the last city under their control.
Luhansk Governor Serhiy Haidai on Wednesday denied that the Russians had completely captured the province.
Heavy fighting continued in villages around Lysychansk, the town from which Ukrainian soldiers withdrew and Russian troops captured on Sunday, he said.
“The Russians paid a high price, but the Luhansk region is not fully captured by the Russian army,” Haidai said.
“Some settlements have already been overrun by each side multiple times.”
He accused Russian forces of scorched earth tactics, “burning and destroying everything in their path”.
Up to 15,000 residents remain in Lysychansk and some 8,000 in the nearby town of Sievierodonetsk, which Russian and separatist fighters seized last month, Haidai said.
Pro-Russian separatists fought Ukrainian forces and controlled much of Donbass for eight years.
Before Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, Mr Putin recognized the independence of the region’s two self-proclaimed breakaway republics.
Separatist authorities in Donetsk said on Wednesday that four civilians had been killed and 14 others injured in Ukrainian shelling in the past 24 hours.
According to reports, shelling hit an ammunition depot on Tuesday, triggering massive explosions.
As Russian forces failed to capture Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, Moscow focused its offensive on seizing the remaining areas of Donbass under Ukrainian control.
North of Donetsk, Russian forces also hit Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, with missile strikes overnight, the Kharkiv regional governor said on Telegram on Wednesday.
Three city districts were targeted, Governor Oleh Syniehubov said.
Three people, including a toddler, were injured, according to the governor.
A missile hit a building where military registration takes place.
A nearby government building remained intact, and people a few feet away peeked at the wreckage as they passed.
Closer to the frontline and in a more abandoned part of town, first responders searched the debris of another nighttime attack at the Kharkiv National Teaching University.
Dusty textbook pages flapped in the wind.
The attacks indicated that the town, located near the Russian border, was unlikely to get any respite as the war entered its fifth month.
The Russian Defense Ministry said its air force killed up to 100 Ukrainian soldiers and destroyed four armored vehicles in Kharkiv.
The ministry’s chief spokesman, Igor Konashenkov, said high-precision air-launched missiles also destroyed two Himars multiple-launch rocket systems the United States had sent to Ukraine.
He said ammunition warehouses were also destroyed in Donetsk province, while a Ukrainian air defense radar and a camp housing foreign fighters were hit in the Mykolaiv region of southern Ukraine. .
Ukraine’s military denied Moscow’s claims, calling them “nothing more than a fake” in a Facebook post.
In other developments:
– European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen says the 27-nation European Union must draw up contingency plans to prepare for a complete Russian gas cut in the wake of the Kremlin war in Ukraine . The EU has already imposed sanctions on Russia, including on some energy supplies, and is trying to find other sources. But Ms von der Leyen said the bloc needed to be ready for shock disruptions from Moscow.
– European Union politicians have voted to support a plan by the bloc’s executive board to include natural gas and nuclear power in its list of sustainable activities. Environmentalists have accused the EU of “greenwashing”. One argument for rejecting the proposal was that it could boost gas sales that benefit Russia. The European Commission said it had a letter from the Ukrainian government supporting its position.
– A Russian court ordered a pipeline carrying oil from Kazakhstan to Europe to be halted for 30 days for what it said were environmental violations, Russian media reported. The ruling by a court in the southern Russian city of Novorossiysk cited the results of a recent inspection by the Caspian Pipeline Consortium. Kazakh leader Kassym-Jomart Tokayev told EU Council President Charles Michel on Tuesday that Kazakhstan “is ready to use its hydrocarbon potential to stabilize the situation on world and European markets”.