Over the weekend, at least seven civilians were killed in shelling by Russian forces, according to Ukrainian officials. Two provinces, Kharkiv and Zaporizhzhia, were targeted with missile, rocket and artillery fire, whilst Kherson was hit by bombs from warplanes. The largest number of casualties occurred in Zaporizhzhia where two people, including a child, died overnight. The province’s governor, Yurii Malashko, said that 18 communities were shelled in total. Zaporizhzhia is home to Europe’s largest nuclear power plant and is one of four Ukrainian provinces annexed by Russia in September 2014. Russia’s military has sought to oust Ukraine’s troops from those areas, particularly Luhansk and Donetsk provinces.
Bakhmut in Donetsk has seen the 13-month war’s longest battle. Western analysts have claimed that Russian forces recently reached the city centre. Seizing Bakhmut after eight months would give Russia a significant victory and a path towards larger Ukrainian-held cities. The Russian army is moving elite units to Bakhmut, according to Col. Serhiy Cherevaty, a spokesperson for Ukraine’s Eastern Group of Forces. Cherevaty said that the Wagner Group, a private Russian military company whose fighters have spearheaded the offensive on Bakhmut, was incurring heavy losses, making it necessary to move in regular army units from the regular army, including paratroopers and motorized riflemen.
Pope Francis and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby used their Easter messages to highlight the war in Ukraine and other conflicts around the world. During his Easter address from the central balcony of 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.” Meanwhile, 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. According to the General Staff of the Ukrainian armed forces, Russia focused attacks on the Donetsk province communities of Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiivka and Marinka. The Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank, said late Saturday that it thinks Russia’s overall offensive “is approaching culmination.” It cited Ivan Tymochko, the head of the Ukrainian Council of Reservists for the country’s ground forces, as reporting that recent Russian attacks appeared designed to distract and disperse Ukrainian troops preparing for a potential counteroffensive.