A Russian soldier walks past a destroyed apartment building in Severodonetsk, Ukraine, on Tuesday. Russian forces have attempted to intensify shelling in eastern Ukraine to continue momentum from the recent capture of several key areas of the Donbas, such as Severodonetsk. Photo by Sergei Ilnitsky/EPA-EFE
July 13 (UPI) -- Intensified Russian bombings across Ukraine have killed more civilians, Ukrainian officials said on Wednesday as forces loyal to Moscow struck a number of strategic locations, including the Donbas.
The Ukrainian officials said that constant Russian shelling has killed at least several civilians and injured almost two dozen across the country. Shelling was particularly intense in Bakhmut and Kramatorsk -- two cities in the Donetsk oblast, which forms half of the Donbas -- early on Wednesday.
The aggressive attacks reflect Moscow's designs on taking full control of the Donbas in eastern Ukraine, a region that has been popular with pro-Russia separatists and is the top priority for Russia's second phase of the war, which began late in February.
Russian forces have made significant gains in the Donbas in recent weeks and Ukrainian resistance fighters have also had some successes. It took Russia's military weeks longer, for example, to capture Severodonetsk than originally anticipated. Severodonetsk is located in the Luhansk oblast, which makes up the second half of the Donbas.
"[Russia] carried out shelling from barrel artillery and mortars in the areas of the settlements of Tetianivka, Mykolaivka, Kryva Luka, Siversk, Serebrianka, and Spirne," the Ukrainian general staff said according to CNN.
Russian missile strikes hit targets farther east in Ukraine on Wednesday, in the Zaporizhzhia region, according to Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of the office of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
"There is a hit in one of the enterprises ... seven people were injured," he told CNN. "The head of the enterprise took the employees to the shelter, which probably saved their lives."
Ukrainian officials for weeks have condemned Moscow and said Russian forces have intentionally targeted civilians, including children.
The Russian Defense Ministry said on Wednesday that it had killed more than 400 Ukrainian troops over the previous 24 hours and shot down three of Ukraine's warplanes and nine of its unmanned drones.
The British Defense Ministry said that urban areas in Slovyansk and Kramatorsk appear to be the main targets of Russia's present operational plans.
"Russia continues to seek to undermine the legitimacy of the Ukrainian state and consolidate its own governance and administrative control over occupied parts of Ukraine," the ministry said in a statement.
"Anti-Russian sentiment in occupied Ukraine is leading to Russian and pro-Russian officials being targeted. The Russian-appointed administration in Velykyy Burluk acknowledged that one of its mayors was killed [Monday] by a car bombing."
Ukrainian officials in Chasiv Yar, where a Russian strike leveled an apartment building this week, said the death toll there has risen to at least 45. They added that a total of nine survivors have been found so far.
Meanwhile, several people were injured in Kharkiv during Russian shelling on Tuesday, Ukrainian officials said. They added that Moscow targeted four "enterprises" and private households.
One day after Ukrainian forces exploded a Russian ammunition depot near Kherson, Kyiv presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said the storage facility was destroyed with advanced rocket launchers that were provided by the United States.
The Ukrainian military, meanwhile, targeted the Russian-held Kherson town of Nova Kakhovka with HIMARS, the long-range artillery system supplied by the United States. Serhiy Khan, a member of the Kherson regional council, said the strike hit a Russian munitions depot in the Sokil district.
Ukrainian and Russian negotiators were scheduled to meet with United Nations officials in Turkey on Wednesday with the goal of resuming grain shipments from Ukraine. Since the fighting began several months ago, Russia's military has seized and disrupted shipments of grains -- a very important crop in Ukraine -- which has helped create a global food crisis.