Russian shells spark hospital fire ahead of expected assault Tuesday, 7 February 2023
KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russian shelling hit more civilian targets in Ukraine, starting a fire at a town's hospital, local officials said Tuesday, before what Kyiv authorities suspected was an impending new offensive by Russia around the anniversary of its invasion.

A hospital in the northeastern town of Vovchansk caught fire late Monday as a result of the shelling, regional Ukrainian emergency services reported.

The shelling caused multiple fires in the town, including at its two-story municipal hospital, the State Emergency Service in the northeastern Kharkiv region said in an online statement.

Emergency crews evacuated eight civilians from the site before putting out the blaze, which caused no casualties, authorities said.

Vovchansk is in the Kharkiv region, which was occupied by Russia after its full-scale invasion began on Feb. 24 and subsequently retaken by Ukraine during a counteroffensive last year.

The anticipated Russian push may seek to recapture territory Moscow lost in that counteroffensive.

Ukrainian officials say they expect the new drive to come in eastern and southern Ukraine, as the Kremlin strives to secure areas it has illegally annexed and where it claims its rule is welcomed.

Battlefield setbacks have embarrassed the Kremlin, and Russian President Vladimir Putin is keen to cement public support for the war. Ensuring Kremlin rule in the eastern Donbas industrial region, bordering Russia, is expected to be a key objective.

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres expressed concern about an uptick in fighting as the winter draws to a close.

Peace prospects “keep diminishing” and “the chances of further escalation and bloodshed keep growing,” he said in a speech late Monday.

Some military analysts are skeptical, however, about Russia’s ability to mount...

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