Russia, Ukraine intensify aerial attacks against each other

A car burns at the site of a Russian missile strike in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, on April 5, 2024. [Reuters]

Russia’s deadly missile attacks Friday on Ukraine’s southern city of Zaporizhzhia killed at least three people and damaged several residential buildings and an industrial facility, the regional governor said.

"What marks today's strikes: First, there were two missile strikes, and then, about 40 minutes later, there were other strikes at the same place — just as rescuers, police started working," Ivan Fedorov said on national TV.

Russia also launched an air attack Friday in Ukraine's northeastern Kharkiv region, according to local media and regional officials. There were no immediate reports of casualties.

The key frontline town of Chasiv Yar in the eastern Donetsk region is under “constant fire” by advancing Russian troops using their superiority in manpower and arms to bolster their offensive, Sergiy Chaus, Chasiv Yar’s head of military administration, told Agence France-Presse Friday, noting that the town of 770 people is under constant barrage.

"If before there were moments when you could hear silence in the town, now there is no silence. ... There is constant fire," he said.

Chasiv Yar, a town west of Bakhmut that was ravaged by Russian forces last May, is of strategic significance to Kyiv's forces.

Ukrainian and Russian military bloggers with links to the armed forces said Friday that Russian troops had reached the outskirts of the town.

Russian forces are pressing onward against Ukrainian units stymied by delays in the supply of vital Western military aid.

Further to the south, Russia's military claimed Friday to have captured the small village of Vodiane, on the outskirts of Donetsk city.

With its troops on the defensive, Kyiv has stepped up its aerial attacks on Russian territory, targeting military sites and energy facilities.

In an interview with VOA, Ukrainian Ambassador to the United States Oksana Markarova said Ukraine is conducting successful strikes against the Russian military.

“From President Zelenskyy to defenders on the front line to everyone, including myself here in Washington, we have only one message: We need to win. And for that, we need more weapons, more ammunition, more support for Ukraine and more sanctions, isolation and bringing Russia to justice,” she said.

"Right now, we're at a pivotal moment in this fight. During the past two years, we have been able to liberate 50% of the territories. Last year, we literally liberated the Black Sea. We must do more,” Markarova said.

Ukraine strikes hard

Kyiv launched one of its largest overnight attacks in weeks, firing more than 50 drones at Russian territory, in the southern Rostov region, Russia's defense ministry said Friday.

Russian officials said that they intercepted 44 of the 53 drones Kyiv fired overnight and that a power substation was damaged in the attack.

Ukrainian officials claimed Friday their drones destroyed six Russian military aircraft and damaged eight others at an airfield near Morozovsk in Russia’s Rostov region.

The Morozovsk airfield was used by Russian bombers that have been launching guided aerial bombs at Ukraine’s cities and frontline positions, according to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the operation.

The assault was carried out by Ukraine’s Security Service in cooperation with the army, Ukrainian intelligence officials told the AP, adding that about 20 members of the airfield’s personnel were killed or injured during the attack.

"This is an important special operation that will significantly reduce the combat potential of the Russians," a source that did not want to be identified due to the sensitivity of the information told AFP, adding that the attack was carried out by the SBU security service and the military.

Neither the AFP nor The Associated Press could independently verify either side’s claims. Both Russia and Ukraine have increased their aerial attacks recently.

Moscow concert hall attack

Russian authorities attempted again on Friday to pin the deadly attack on a Moscow concert hall on Ukraine, alleging one of the detained suspects had photos on his phone depicting troops in camouflage uniforms with the Ukrainian flag.

Since the March 22 mass shooting and fire at the Crocus City Hall concert venue that killed 145 people, Russian officials have sought to blame Ukraine for the massacre, even though Kyiv has denied any involvement and an affiliate of the Islamic State claimed responsibility.

Russian authorities, including President Vladimir Putin, have provided no evidence of a link in their effort to shift the narrative from the failure by Russian security services to prevent the attack.

Russia's top law enforcement agency, the Investigative Committee, said in a statement Friday that authorities found photos in one of the suspects' phones depicting “people in camouflage uniforms with the Ukrainian flag against the background of destroyed houses."

The committee also said one of the suspects sent images of access roads and entrances to the concert hall to their handler on February 24 — the second anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The Russian law enforcement agency's claims couldn't be independently verified.