UZHGOROD, Ukraine – As intense fighting raged in eastern Ukraine and Russian troops put pressure to cut supply lines to thousands of Ukrainian soldiers, Moscow released more than 40 rockets on Saturday morning at targets across the country, including in areas in the Ukraine. north and west which have been largely spared in recent weeks.
The barrage, which officials say was fired from Belarusian airspace and appeared to hit mostly military installations, was a stark reminder of the fragility of cities across Ukraine. It also spotlighted the escalation of Russian airstrikes in recent weeks.
Even in western and northern regions where the wails of air raid sirens had become sporadic in recent weeks, they went five times in less than 48 hours to signal that missiles had been fired within striking distance, a noticeable increase in intensity.
Dozens of rocket attacks were launched overnight by Russian planes into Belarusian airspace, according to a Belarusian monitoring group, Belarusian Guyun, which details Russian actions since the start of the war.
The strikes came hours before President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia was scheduled to meet with President Alexander G. Lukashenko of Belarus in St. Petersburg. Belarusian troops also resume military exercises near the border with the Kiev region, raising tensions and keeping Ukrainian authorities on high alert.
Ukraine’s military intelligence service called the Russian attack “a large-scale provocation by Russia with the aim of dragging Belarus further into the war against Ukraine”. While many Western military analysts say Belarus is unlikely to directly participate in Russia’s war effort, Mr Lukashenko’s power depends on Kremlin support.
According to the Belarusian observation group, the bombers took off from the Russian airport, entered Belarusian airspace, flew to the border with Ukraine and fired missiles.
Those details were confirmed by the local authorities in Ukraine. At least 24 rockets fired from Belarus have hit the outskirts of Zhytomyr, a town about 80 miles (80 km) west of Kiev, Zhytomyr mayor Sergey Sukhomlyn said on Saturday.
The toll of the nighttime strikes across the country was not immediately clear, and Ukrainians often do not release details about attacks on military installations. But Vitaly Bunechko, the governor of the Zhytomyr region, said at least one soldier had been killed and another injured.
In the Chernihiv region, immediately east of Kiev, the area’s governor Vyacheslav Chaus said a “mass missile strike” from Belarusian territory had destroyed infrastructure in the village of Desna, where Ukrainian troops also have a military installation.
“Rockets also boomed over Chernihiv today,” he said on Saturday. “This indicates that the war in the Chernihiv region is not over yet.”
Chernihiv was besieged early in the war by Russian forces, who killed and injured a number of civilians in attacks in March, but never took the city. Ukrainian forces expelled the Russian fighters from the area in early April.
In another salvo that Ukrainians said was launched by Russian forces on the Black Sea on Saturday morning, four rockets hit a “military object” in the Yavoriv area, the site of a military training base in the Lviv region. Four people were injured and taken to hospital, said Maksym Kozytskyi, the region’s governor.
The Yavoriv district has been targeted several times since the start of the war, including a major attack in March that left dozens dead and injured.
Megan Special reported from Uzhgorod, Ukraine, and Marc Santora from Warsaw.