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Russian forces launch dozens of missile strikes across Ukraine

Earlier this week, Hanna walked inside the remains of her house destroyed in a Russian shelling in Chernihiv city, Ukraine. Photo by Oleg Petrasyuk/EPA-EFE
Earlier this week, Hanna walked inside the remains of her house destroyed in a Russian shelling in Chernihiv city, Ukraine. Photo by Oleg Petrasyuk/EPA-EFE

June 25 (UPI) -- Russian forces launched dozens of missiles across Ukraine on Saturday morning, including northern and western regions of the country, officials said.

The missiles hit more than 40 targets across Ukraine, including the north and west largely spared in recent weeks as Moscow focused on the eastern Donbas region.

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Bombers from a Russian airfield flew up to Ukraine's border after entering Belarusian airspace and fired the missiles overnight, according to Belarusian monitoring group, Belarusian Guyun, which has detailed Russian actions since the war started Feb. 24.

Officials also said that the attack hit mostly military installations.

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Local officials in Ukraine confirmed the attack, which Ukraine's military intelligence agency called "a large-scale provocation of Russia for the purpose of further dragging Belarus into the war against Ukraine," The New York Times reported.

Russian forces fired at least 24 missiles at the outskirts of Zhytomyr, about 80 miles west of Kyiv, according to Zhytomyr Mayor Sergey Sukhomlyn. Zhytomyr Regional Gov. Vitaly Bunechko said at least one soldier was killed and another was injured.

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East of Kyiv, in the Chernihiv region, Regional Gov. Vyacheslav Chaus said that a "massive missile strike," destroyed infrastructure in Desna village where Ukrainian forces have a military base.

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In March, Russian strikes on Chernihiv killed and injured numerous civilians, according to Human Rights Watch.

By early April, Ukrainian troops had forced Russian fighters from the Chernihiv area, but Chaus said that the strike on Saturday is a sign that the war in the area "is not over."

Another strike by Russian forces on the Black Sea on Saturday morning hit the Yavoriv military facility near Lviv. The strike injured four people, regional Gov. Maxim Kozitsky said.

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The Yavoriv district was also targeted with a strike in March that killed 35 people and injured at least 130 people, according to Ukrainian officials.

On Friday, Ukraine withdrew troops from the key city of Severodonetsk after months of shelling, marking a victory for Russia in its effort to capture the eastern Donbas region.

Still, the battle for Lysychansk, another key eastern city Severodonetsk, raged on Saturday.

RELATED Ukraine pulls remaining troops out of Severodonetsk

The British Ministry of Defense said in an update that Ukraine was "likely reconfiguring its defense," of the Severodonetsk-Lysychansk area amid Russian forces advancing "on the southern edge of the build up area."

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The update also said that there's been a shakeup in Russian high command "since the start of June," including removal of several generals from "key operational command roles."

These removals have included commander of Airborne Forces Gen.-Col. Andrei Serdyukov, and commander of Southern Group Forces General of the Army Alexandr Dvornikov, according to the update.

Col.-Gen. Sergei Surovikin is likely to take over command of the SGF, which continues to be key to Russia's offensive in Donbas, though Surovikin "has been dogged with allegations of corruption and brutality," the British Ministry of Defense added.

Meanwhile, in the already captured Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, Mayor Vadym Boychenko said the 120,000 captive residents are suffering under Russian rule.

In a city council Telegram post, Boychenko said there was no working sewage system or drinking water, and tons of uncollected garbage was piling up. Amid the unsanitary conditions, he was concerned about the spread of cholera and dysentery.

"All this puts at risk the lives and health of Mariupol residents who find themselves in a real ghetto," Boychenko said in the post. "Now everything must be done to give Mariupol residents the opportunity to leave the city towards the territory controlled by Ukraine."

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Since the Russia-Ukraine war began Feb. 24, at least 4,677 civilians have been killed and 5,829 civilians have been injured, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights latest update. The update noted that actual civilian casualties may be considerably higher due to delayed reports and many reports still pending corroboration.

Scenes from Ukraine: Destruction, atrocities and mourning

Priest Andrii Gavalin presides over the funeral of Eugene Bogdanov, 35, in Bucha, Ukraine, on May 10. Bogdanov went missing two months ago. His wife, Natalia Bogdanova, was searching for him throughout the Kyiv and Bucha regions when his body was found at a morgue in Belaya Tserkov on May 9. Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI | License Photo

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