No respite in hostilities in Ukraine despite the exchange of prisoners

KIEV: Russian and Ukrainian Forces exchanged missile and artillery barrages that killed at least six people Thursday as both sides refused to concede land despite recent military setbacks to Moscow and the toll on the invaded country after nearly seven months of war.
Russian missiles attack the southern city of Zaporizhzhia left one person dead and five others injured, Ukrainian officials said. Officials in the separatist-controlled city of Donetsk said Ukrainian bombing had killed at least five people.
Proving that neither side was ready to ease or pause the fighting, the firefight occurred hours after the two sides carried out a major prisoner swap and the day after Russian President Vladimir Putin called in troops. reserve to supplement his forces.
Kyrylo Tymoshenko, the deputy of the Ukrainian president’s office, said a hotel in the central part of Zaporizhzhia has been hit and rescuers are trying to free people trapped in the rubble.
The governor of the Zaporizhzhia region, Oleksandr Starukh, said Russian forces targeted infrastructure and also damaged neighboring apartment buildings. The region is one of four in which Moscow-based officials plan to hold referendums starting Friday to join Russia, but the city itself is in Ukrainian hands.
Meanwhile, Mayor of separatist-controlled Donetsk city Alexei Kulemzin said at least five people were killed when Ukrainian bombings hit a covered market and a passenger minibus on Thursday.
A few hours before Thursday’s attacks, a high-profile prisoner exchange saw the exchange of 215 Ukrainian and foreign fighters, 200 of them with a single person, an ally of Putin. Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov would not confirm whether Putin’s only ally – Ukrainian pro-Russian opposition leader Viktor Medvedchuk – was part of the exchange.
Among the freed fighters were Ukrainian defenders of a steel mill in Mariupol during a long Russian siege and 10 foreigners, including five British citizens and two US military veterans, who had fought with Ukrainian forces.
A video on the BBC news website Thursday showed two of the released British men, Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner, talking inside a plane. He said they had arrived in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
“We just want to let everyone know that we are now out of the danger zone and are heading home to our families,” Aslin said in the video, while Pinner added, “For the skin of our teeth.”
The speed with which the Russian missile strike arrived after the trade suggested that the Kremlin was trying to dispel any notions of weakness or declining determination to achieve its war goals following recent battlefield losses and battles. arrest which severely undermined the aura of Russian military power.
Those losses culminated Wednesday in Putin’s order for a partial mobilization of reservists to bolster his forces in Ukraine. The order sparked rare protests in Russia and was mocked in the West as an act of weakness and desperation.
The partial call was short on details, raising concerns about a larger draft that sent some Russians to struggle to buy airline tickets to flee the country.
Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, said the mobilization was necessary because Russia “was effectively facing all of NATO”, referring to the military aid and other support that alliance members have provided to Ukraine.
A senior Kremlin official on Thursday repeated Putin’s threat to use nuclear weapons if Russian territory were to be attacked.
Dmitry Medvedev, deputy head of the Russian Security Council, said on his messaging app channel Thursday that strategic nuclear weapons are one of the options for safeguarding Russian-controlled territories in eastern and southern Ukraine. The remark appeared to serve as a warning that Moscow could also target Ukraine’s Western allies.
Pro-Moscow authorities in Russian-controlled regions of Ukraine are preparing to hold referendums to join Russia, a move that could allow Moscow to escalate the war. Voting starts on Friday in the Luhansk, Kherson, Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk regions.
Foreign leaders called the votes illegitimate and non-binding. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said they were a “fiction” and a “noise” to distract the public.
One person was killed during Russian bombing overnight in the center of Nikopol city, across the river from the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, according to Dnipropetrovsk region governor Valentyn Reznichenko.
Zelenskyy’s office said five people were killed by bombing in the Donetsk region last day.