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A missile strike killed at least three people in a residential building in the southern Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv on Wednesday as Russian forces intensified their attacks on multiple fronts.

In the east, the governor of Luhansk province said there was "fighting everywhere" in the battle around the city of Lysychansk, which Russian troops were trying to encircle.

The governor of Kryvyi Rih in central Ukraine said Russian shelling had increased there too in the past few days.

"Several villages have been wiped from the face of the earth," Oleksander Vilkul said.

The stepped-up attacks took place as Russian President Vladimir Putin's forces make slow but inexorable progress in a conflict now in its fifth month.

Nonetheless, Western analysts say the Russians are taking heavy casualties and running through resources, while the prospect of more Western weapons supplies reaching Ukraine, including long-range missile systems, made Moscow's need to consolidate any gains more urgent.

On the diplomatic front, leaders of NATO countries were meeting in the Spanish capital Madrid to thrash out policy in response to what Russia calls its "special military operation".

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said members of the military alliance would continue to supply Ukraine with weapons for as long as necessary.

CIVILIAN CASUALTIES

The mayor of Mykolaiv, Oleksandr Senkevych, said eight Russian missiles had struck the city, including hitting an apartment block. Photographs showed smoke billowing from a four-storey building with its upper floor partly destroyed.

A river port and ship-building centre just off the Black Sea, Mykolaiv has been a bastion against Russian efforts to push West towards Ukraine's main port city of Odesa.

The Mykolaiv strike took place just two days after a Russian missile hit a shopping mall in Kremenchuk in central Ukraine, killing at least 18 people. Rescuers were still searching for dozens of missing on Wednesday.

The Kremenchuk attack drew international condemnation. Moscow denied targeting the mall and said it had struck an arms depot nearby, which exploded. read more

Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelenskiy's office said the Russians had also fired missiles at civilian infrastructure in Sumy region in the past 24 hours, killing two civilians.

Britain's Ministry of Defence, in its regular assessment on the conflict, said it expected Russia to continue making strikes in an effort to hamper the resupplying of Ukrainian forces on the frontlines.

"Russia's shortage of more modern precision strike weapons and the professional shortcomings of their targeting planners will highly likely result in further civilian casualties," it said.

Ukrainian armed forces commander General Valery Zaluzhny said Russia had fired around 130 missiles on Ukraine within the last four days - an indication of the intensification of attacks.

Russia has denied targeting civilian areas but the United Nations says at least 4,700 civilians have been killed since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24.

Zelenskiy addressed the U.N. Security Council remotely on Tuesday, describing Russia as a "terrorist state" and urging the Security Council, where Moscow has a veto, to expel Russia from the United Nations.

EASTERN FRONT

Fighting meanwhile raged further east in Luhansk province, a key battleground in Russia's assault on the industrial heartland of the Donbas region.

"There is fighting everywhere. The enemy is trying to break through our defences. And since they don't succeed, they fire with all the weapons they have, erase all the villages from the face of the earth," Luhansk governor Serhiy Gaidai said on television.

The battle for Lysychansk follows the fall of Sievierodonetsk, its sister city across the Siverskyi Donets River on Saturday.

Its capture would expand Russian control of the Donbas, one of Moscow's strategic objectives since its failure to seize Ukraine's capital Kyiv in the early stages of the war.

"The Russians are using every weapon available to them ... and without distinguishing whether targets are military or not - schools, kindergartens, cultural institutions," Gaidai said.

REFERENDUM

The Moscow-imposed military-civilian administration in Kherson region said it had begun preparations for a referendum on joining Russia, Russian state news agency TASS reported.

Kherson, a port city on the Black Sea, sits just northwest of the Russian-annexed Crimean peninsula.

Russia-installed officials said their security forces had detained Kherson city mayor Ihor Kolykhayev on Tuesday after he refused to follow Moscow's orders. A local official said the mayor was abducted.

In the past few days, Ukrainians have also described attacks in Odesa region and Kharkiv in the northeast.

Source: Reuters

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