KYIV, Ukraine – As Russian forces lost ground in Ukraine, they continued to rain destruction and destroy Ukrainian civilian targets, using artillery and rockets on Thursday and Friday to hit multiple cities and towns, often far from any skirmishes.
Ukrainian officials and some military analysts say that as Russian troops retreat to the east and south, they are increasingly determined to destroy infrastructure and more indiscriminate about causing civilian casualties often, using its advantage in long-range weapons as to punish Ukraine. Moscow’s losses.
The battle continued on a day when the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded given to human rights activists in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine, a tacit rebuke to Russia and its president, Vladimir V. Putin, for the invasion of Ukraine.
During the night nearly 40 Russian rockets hit Nikopol, on the Dnipro River, damaging at least 10 houses, several apartment buildings and other infrastructure, according to the head of the regional military agency, Valentin Reznichenko. He said subsequent shelling on Friday night killed one man and wounded another.
Ukraine’s military said Iranian-made “kamikaze” drones hit the cities of Zaporizhzhia and Mykolaiv on Friday. In the Kherson area, Russian artillery hit civilians in the Berislav district who were staying in their yards instead of taking shelter, regional police said on Friday. They did not say how many people were killed or injured.
In Zaporizhzhia, rescuers found more bodies on Friday as they cleared debris from a missile attack on a residential area a day earlier, bringing the death toll to 12, including two children, many of whom may still be under the rubble, local officials said.
“We have many injured and in hospital, and 15 others have been reported missing, so we continue to look for them,” said Anatolii Kurtiev, acting mayor. Large-scale humanitarian convoys out of the city have been suspended.
During the war, Zaporizhzhia, a regional center on the Dnipro River, was often the first garrison for the most vulnerable civilians who fled Russian destruction and occupation further north. east and south. Even so, President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine said in an overnight video address the city “is subject to massive missile attacks every day.”
New Nobel laureates include Memorial, a Russian rights group that Putin’s government suppressed for years and later ordered to shut down; Ales Bialiatski, a activist imprisoned in Belarus, a close ally of the Kremlin with whom some Russian forces have attacked Ukraine; and the Center for Civil Liberties in Ukraine, have worked to document Russian atrocities in Ukraine.
The United Nations Human Rights Council on Friday voted – in the face of fierce Russian opposition – to launch an investigation into human rights in Russia, passing a resolution noting “a clear link between domestic repression and war abroad.”
Friday also marked another important milestone, as Mr. Putin turned 70. The President of Belarus gave him a tractor. The leader of Tajikistan gave him a bunch of watermelons.
And many Ukrainians wished that this birthday would be his last.
Countless memes have condemned or mocked Mr. Putin. Ukrainian hackers broke into the website of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, a NATO-like body for post-Soviet states, and posted the message: “We want to wish you a happy birthday last time. Putin and wished him a ‘comfortable’ trip to The Hague. The website was later taken down.
The Russian media, under Moscow’s tight control, hyped up Mr. Putin’s 22-year term as the country’s leader. The Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper praised him with statements that defied the imperial powers of the mocking regime and the Soviet past, such as Peter the Great, Joseph Stalin and Leonid Brezhnev.
Video has gone viral online of young people praising Putin. One showed Kindergarten students in central Russia performed a dance for the president, and in another, student in St.Petersburg arranged their bodies with the words “Putin Is My President.”
What the Kremlin expected was a flashy defeat to Ukraine turned into a bloody disaster now in its eighth month, with Russian casualties and casualties few thought possible. And after months of attacks, Russian forces have steady retreat over the past month, losing thousands of square miles of territory they had captured earlier in the year. Russia claims to have annexed four regions of Ukraine, even as their partial hold wanes.
Ukraine’s military says what they saw in Russian partners are panicking, with the dismayed soldiers of the Kremlin surrendering and giving up equipment in increasing numbers. In an intelligence assessment published on Friday, the British Ministry of Defense said Russian equipment, preserved intact, included at least 440 tanks and 650 other armored vehicles, and could account for more than one half of Ukraine’s tank fleet.
“The failure of the Russian crews to destroy intact equipment before withdrawing or surrendering shows their poor training and low level of combat discipline,” it said.
In a video Directly aimed at Russian officers and commanders on Putin’s birthday, Oleksii Reznikov, Ukraine’s defense minister, said: “You have been deceived and betrayed. You were promised an easy ride. And got caught in a trap. You pay in blood for someone’s false fantasies and goals.”
Ukrainian casualties are also high, although the government has avoided giving detailed figures. Across Ukraine, power lines, water pipes, highways, railways and countless homes were damaged or destroyed, millions were forced out of their homes and millions lost their jobs.
The areas invaded by Russia and then recaptured by Ukraine have suffered the most intense fighting and devastation. People living there face severe food and electricity shortages, and problems will only get worse as winter approaches, Kherson regional council vice president Serhiy Khlan told journalists.
Mr. Putin and his aides have suggested that Russia could use nuclear weapons, and Western officials and Analysts speculate on what he might do if Russia’s military situation deteriorates or his hold on power slips.
President Biden say on Thursday night that the risk of nuclear war is higher than at any time since the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.
“We’re trying to figure out: Where is Putin’s end?” Mr. Biden said at a fundraiser in New York. “Where does he find his way out? Where does he find himself with not only a loss of face, but considerable power? “
Megan Specia reported from Kyiv, Ukraine and Richard Pérez-Peña from New York. Valeriya Safronova contribution reports from Vienna, and Nick Cumming-Bruce from Geneva.