Editor's note: This page recaps the news from Ukraine on Saturday, July 2. Follow here for the latest updates and news from Sunday, July 3 as Russia's invasion continues.
Russian military strikes on civilian targets sharply increased over the past two weeks, according to Ukrainian officials, who said at a news conference that Moscow’s use of older and less precise weapons caused greater casualties.
Brigadier Gen. Oleksii Hromov said that more than 200 missiles were fired on Ukraine in that time period, more than double the amount in the first two weeks of June, according to a Reuters report.
Russia has claimed it only hits civilian targets that the Ukrainian military had taken over for use as a command post, weapons depot or other operations.
But one of the most lethal strikes over the past week occurred in a mall in the industrial city of Kremenchuk, killing more than 20 people. And on Friday, at least 21 people were killed when missiles demolished an apartment building near the strategic port city of Odesa.
►The European Union’s executive arm on Friday pledged to draft an emergency plan this month aimed at helping member countries do without Russian energy in the wake of the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine.
►The Russian missile used in the deadly strike on the shopping mall in Ukraine on June 27 was designed to attack ships, a senior defense official said Friday. The missile did not have the accuracy needed to avoid civilian casualties in an urban environment.
►WNBA star Brittney Griner's trial for drug charges in Russia began Friday, but experts say it will lack legitimacy. Read more here.
Fearing Russian retribution, Germany bracing for gas price spikes
BERLIN – Fearing Russia might cut off natural gas supplies, the head of Germany’s regulatory agency for energy called on residents Saturday to save energy and to prepare for winter, when use increases.
Federal Network Agency President Klaus Mueller urged house and apartment owners to have their gas boilers and radiators checked and adjusted to maximize their efficiency.
“Maintenance can reduce gas consumption by 10% to 15% ,” he told Funke Mediengruppe, a German newspaper and magazine publisher.
Mueller said residents and property owners need to use the 12 weeks before cold weather sets in to get ready. He said families should start talking now about “whether every room needs to be set at its usual temperature in the winter -- or whether some rooms can be a little colder.”
The appeal came after Russia reduced gas flows to Germany, Italy, Austria, the Czech Republic and Slovakia earlier this month, as European Union countries scramble to refill storage facilities with the fuel used to generate electricity, power industry and heat homes in the winter.
Russian state-owned energy company Gazprom blamed a technical problem for the reduction in natural gas flowing through Nord Stream 1, a pipeline which runs under the Baltic Sea from Russia to Germany.
- Associated Press
Russia batters Lysychansk, last stronghold in eastern Ukraine’s Luhansk province
KYIV, Ukraine – Russian forces are pounding the city of Lysychansk and its surroundings in an all-out attempt to seize the last stronghold of resistance in eastern Ukraine’s Luhansk province, the governor said Saturday.
Ukrainian fighters have spent weeks trying to defend the city and to keep it from falling to Russia, as neighboring Sievierodonetsk did a week ago. The Russian Defense Ministry said its forces took control of an oil refinery on Lysychansk’s edge in recent days, but Luhansk Gov. Serhiy Haidai reported Friday that fighting for the facility continued.
“Over the last day, the occupiers opened fire from all available kinds of weapons,” Haidai said Saturday on the Telegram messaging app.
Luhansk and neighboring Donetsk are the two provinces that make up the Donbas region, where Russia has focused its offensive since pulling back from the northern Ukraine and the capital, Kyiv, in the spring.
- Associated Press
At least 21 killed in Russian strike
A Russian missile strike on Friday killed at least 21 people and injured 30 others in the Odesa region in a move seen by Ukrainian authorities as revenge, one day after Russian troops abandoned their positions on an island off the coast of Odesa.
At least two of the dead were children; three other kids were rescued from the rubble, Odesa's military administration spokesman Sergei Bratchuk said. Bratchuk said the missiles were launched by aircraft in the Black Sea, striking a nine-story apartment building.
Russian troops were forced of Snake Island Thursday, which Moscow called a "gesture of goodwill" over allegations it is blocking grain exports. But Ukrainian officials said the missile strike was payback for being forced out.
-Kim Hjelmgaard, USA TODAY
Civilian deaths, injuries pass 10,000: UN report
The UN's count of verified Ukrainian civilian casualties since Russia invaded in February surpassed 10,000 this week, according to a new situation report. That includes 4,662 killed and 5,803 injured.
That number "is only growing," and is likely to be much higher, the report released by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs on Friday said.
In addition to the killed and injured, the UN estimated that 12.1 million people in Ukraine will require medical care between March and August. The report adds that the World Health Organization has documented 295 attacks on facilities and transportation related to health care. Reaching areas where health care has been disrupted due to the war remains a challenge due to fuel shortages and access issues.
"The risk of disease outbreaks, such as cholera, measles, diphtheria or COVID-19, has grown due to the lack of access to water, sanitation and hygiene, crowded conditions in bomb shelters and collective centres and suboptimal coverage for routine and childhood immunizations," the report said.
Defense official: Ukraine's attacks forced Russia to retreat from island
Russia’s claim that it retreated from Snake Island in the Black Sea near Odesa is bogus, a senior Defense official said Friday.
Instead, steady attacks by Ukrainian forces, including the sinking of supply ship on June 17 with western-supplied Harpoon missiles, forced Russia to abandon the island, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity to describe intelligence assessments.
Russia’s retreat from the island on June 30 will open shipping lanes and make it easier for Ukraine to defend the port city of Odesa. However, Russia continues to maintain an effective blockade in the Black Sea, the official said.
-Tom Vanden Brook, USA TODAY
US announces $820M in additional aid for Ukraine
U.S. officials announced another aid package worth $820 million for Ukraine on Friday, which includes two air defense systems to help the country shoot down Russian missiles.
The package includes two systems called NASAMS, a Norwegian-developed anti-aircraft system currently used to protect airspace around government buildings in Washington. The Pentagon will also provide additional ammunition for HIMARS rocket systems given to Ukraine in June. Those weapons allow Ukrainian forces to strike from as far as 40 miles away to target Russian command posts, supply depots and troops.
The Pentagon will also ship 150,000 rounds of artillery and four counter-artillery radars.
The newest round of aid brings the U.S.' total commitment to about $8.8 billion to Ukraine, $7 billion of it since Russia invaded Ukraine in February.
"I commend US historic decision to provide UA with new security assistance package, including modern air defense systems," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a tweet.
Contributing: The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Ukraine war: Russian missile barrage continues amis civilian deaths