Russian forces launched a series of weekend attacks that killed at least seven civilians, according to Ukrainian officials. Pope Francis and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, used their Easter messages to highlight the ongoing conflict in Ukraine and other wars around the world.
While Russia continues to concentrate on capturing Ukraine’s industrial east, missile, rocket and artillery fire hit two other provinces – Kharkiv in the northeast and Zaporizhzhia in the southeast, said the Ukrainian military.
In Kupiansk, Kharkiv, two men died Sunday in shelling, and the city remained under attack with residential areas targeted by Russian forces using multiple rocket launchers. In Chuhuiv, a 30-year-old man was hospitalised in serious condition following Russian shelling.
Shelling overnight in Zaporizhzhia killed two people, one a child born in 2012, according to City Council Secretary Anatoliy Kurtev. Governor Yurii Malashko reported that 18 communities in the province had been shelled, leaving three dead and five wounded on Saturday.
Zaporizhzhia is home to Europe’s largest nuclear power plant and one of four Ukrainian provinces illegally annexed by Russian President Vladimir Putin in September 2022. Since then, Russia’s military has sought to oust Ukraine’s troops from those areas, especially Luhansk and Donetsk provinces, which make up the industrial region known as the Donbas.
Bakhmut, a city in Donetsk, has seen the 13-month war’s longest battle, with Western analysts saying that Russian forces recently made it into the city centre. Seizing Bakhmut after more than eight months would give the Kremlin a badly needed victory and a path to push on towards bigger Ukrainian-held cities.
Col. Serhiy Cherevaty, spokesperson for Ukraine’s Eastern Group of Forces, said the Russian army was moving elite units to Bakhmut. He stated that the Wagner Group, a private Russian military company, was incurring heavy losses, making it necessary to move in regular army units, including paratroopers and motorised riflemen.
Ukrainians with a religious affiliation mostly identify as Orthodox Christian, with Easter observed on April 16 this year. While delivering his Easter address from the central balcony of the Vatican’s St. Peter’s Basilica, Pope Francis implored God to “help the beloved Ukrainian people on their journey towards peace, and shed the light of Easter upon the people of Russia.″ Welby said that the occasion provided hope that “true peace is no aimless daydream, but a reality offered because Christ was raised from the dead.”
Between Saturday and Sunday mornings, Russian forces launched 40 air strikes, four missile strikes and 58 attacks from multiple-rocket launchers on various parts of Ukraine, the General Staff of the Ukrainian armed forces reported. Russia focused attacks on the Donetsk province communities of Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiivka and Marinka.
Officials in Kherson province, where Ukrainian forces forced a partial Russian retreat in November, said the southern region also received numerous attacks, but no casualties were reported.
The Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank, said late Saturday that it believes Russia’s overall offensive “is approaching culmination,” with recent Russian attacks appearing designed to distract and disperse Ukrainian troops preparing for a potential counteroffensive.