KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russian shelling destroyed homes and killed one person in northern Ukraine’s Kharkiv province, the region’s governor said Sunday, while fighting raged in the fiercely contested eastern city of Bakhmut.
The town of Kupiansk is about 30 kilometers (18 miles) from the Russian border; the region has come under frequent attacks even though Russian ground forces withdrew from the area nearly six months ago. Gov. Oleh Syniehubov said at least five homes were razed in the latest attack that left a 65-year-old man dead.
Two civilians were killed over the past day in Bakhmut, Donetsk province Gov. Pavlo Kyrylenko said. Russian forces have spent months trying to capture the city as part of their offensive in eastern Ukraine, and the area has seen some of the bloodiest ground fighting of the war.
In recent days, Ukrainian units destroyed two key bridges just outside Bakhmut, including one linking it to the nearby town of Chasiv Yar along the last remaining Ukrainian resupply route, according to U.K. military intelligence officials and other Western analysts.
Associated Press journalists near Bakhmut on Saturday saw a pontoon bridge set up by Ukrainian soldiers to help the few remaining residents reach the nearby village of Khromove. Later, the AP team saw at least five houses on fire as a result of attacks in Khromove, a nearby settlement.
The Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank, assessed last week that Kyiv’s actions may point to a looming pullout from parts of the city. It said Ukrainian troops may “conduct a limited and controlled withdrawal from particularly difficult sections of eastern Bakhmut,” while seeking to inhibit Russian movement there and limit exit routes to the west.
Capturing Bakhmut would not only give Russian fighters a rare battlefield gain after months of setbacks but might rupture Ukraine’s supply lines and allow the Kremlin’s forces to press on toward other Ukrainian strongholds in Donetsk province.
In southern Ukraine, a woman and two children were killed in a residential building in the Kherson region village of Poniativka, the Ukrainian president’s office reported. A Russian artillery shell hit a car in Burdarky, another Kharkiv province village, killing a man and his wife, the regional prosecutor’s office said.
Casualties increased from an attack earlier in the week. Ukraine’s emergency services reported Sunday that the death toll from a Russian missile strike that hit a five-story apartment building in southern Ukraine on Thursday rose to 13.
One of the few areas where Russia and Ukraine have cooperated during the war is grain shipments. On that front, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Sunday his country is engaged in “intense efforts” to extend an agreement that allowed Ukraine to export grain from its Black Sea ports.
The deal, which the U.N. and Turkey brokered in July 2022 and was extended by four months in November, is set to expire March 18.
In a speech at the opening of the U.N. Conference on Least Developed Countries in Doha, Qatar, Cavusoglu said he had discussed another extension with U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
The agreement, which also allows Russia to export food and fertilizers, has helped temper rising global food prices. However, Russian officials have complained that shipments of the country’s fertilizer were not being facilitated under the agreement, leaving the deal’s renewal in question.
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