At least eight civilians were killed in Russian artillery shelling in the eastern Ukrainian town of Lyman, local officials said on July 8, as the conflict entered its 500th day.
Five others were wounded in the shelling that hit a residential area at around 10 a.m. local time, Donetsk regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said on Telegram.
“A house and a shop were damaged. Police are working on the site,” Kyrylenko added.
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The Ukrainian military said in its daily military update that it had repelled assault attempts by Russian forces near Lyman, a key railway junction in the Donetsk region.
Russian forces also targeted the Ukrainian city of Kryviy Rih in an overnight drone attack, wounding at least one person and damaging several buildings and vehicles, local officials said early on July 8.
A 26-year-old man was hospitalized “with moderate injuries,” Oleksandr Vilkul, the head of the city’s Defense Council, wrote on Telegram.
“The destruction [caused by the attack] is significant,” Vilkul said, adding that the strikes caused a fire that “was promptly extinguished by rescuers.”
Drones hit an agricultural enterprise, “destroying one of its buildings and badly damaging another one,” Vilkul said. Seven trucks were also damaged in the attack, the official said.
Vilkul said that the situation was “under control” in Kryviy Rih, one of the largest cities of the southeastern Dnipropetrovsk Province.
“All important infrastructure, public transport, and social and medical institutions are operating normally,” Vilkul said.
The latest Russian strikes come as Ukraine seeks to push ahead with its counteroffensive against Russia’s invasion.
The United States is expected to provide its next military aid package to Ukraine, including cluster munitions, U.S. national-security adviser Jake Sullivan said on July 7 ahead of the Pentagon’s formal announcement.
“We recognize that cluster munitions create a risk of civilian harm from unexploded ordnance,” Sullivan said. “This is why we’ve deferred the decision for as long as we could.”
U.S. President Joe Biden said in an interview with CNN that the decision was difficult, but he believes Kyiv needs the weapons to prevent Russian forces from halting the Ukrainian counteroffensive.
WATCH: When Ukrainian troops liberated the village of Neskuchne in the Donetsk region, they found the area covered in land mines left by retreating Russian forces. Heavily entrenched enemy positions have been slowing Ukraine’s ongoing counteroffensive.
The new military aid package provides Ukraine with “additional artillery systems and ammunition, including highly effective and reliable dual-purpose improved conventional munitions,” the Pentagon said in a statement, referring to cluster munitions.
The package, valued at $800 million, is the 42nd provided to Ukraine drawing from U.S. stockpiles, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said. It includes additional precision aerial munitions, munitions for multiple-launch rocket systems, 155-millimeter howitzers, other ammunition, and more armored Bradley and Stryker vehicles.
Cluster munitions are bombs that open in the air and release scores of smaller bomblets, many of which do not explode, putting civilians at risk even long after wars end.
The planned delivery of cluster munitions does not come without controversy, as many close U.S. allies said they oppose the transfer of such weapons.
“We do not support the use of cluster munitions and are committed to putting an end to the effects cluster munitions have on civilians – particularly children,” Canada’s government said.
Germany, Britain, the United Nations, and others also expressed opposition to Washington’s plan.
The production, stockpiling, and use of cluster bombs were banned in 2008 under the Convention On Cluster Munitions, although the United States, Russia, and Ukraine have not signed on to the convention.
Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said on July 8 that the bombs would only be used to help Kyiv’s forces de-occupy Ukrainian territory and that they would not be used inside Russia.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called for greater global efforts to honor the international treaty banning cluster munitions and condemned Russia for “repeatedly” using such munitions in its war against Ukraine.
Ukraine says it needs cluster munitions to fire against dug-in Russian positions. It has promised to use the munitions carefully, Sullivan said, adding that the United States will send a version of the munition that has a reduced “dud rate,” meaning fewer of the bomblets fail to explode.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy thanked Biden and the American people for the “timely, broad and much-needed defense aid package,” which he said would bring Ukraine closer to victory over the enemy and democracy closer to victory over dictatorship.
A video clip released on July 8, showed Zelenskiy visiting a Black Sea island whose defenders famously defied a Russian warship at the beginning of the war.
“Today we are on Snake Island, which will never be conquered by the occupiers, like the whole of Ukraine, because we are the country of the brave,” Zelenskiy said in the undated clip, in which he was shown arriving on the island by boat and leaving flowers at a memorial.
“I want to thank from here, from this place of victory, each of our soldiers for these 500 days,” Zelenskiy said.
Snake Island was captured by the Russian forces shortly after Moscow launched its brutal invasion on February 24, 2022, but ended up withdrawing from the area months later in late June 2022.
Zelenskiy traveled to Turkey on July 7 for talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the end of a four-nation tour ahead of next week’s NATO summit in Vilnius. He said security guarantees and a Ukrainian grain export deal with Russia that Turkey helped broker last year were on the agenda.
Speaking at a joint press conference with Zelenskiy in Istanbul, Erdogan said that Kyiv deserved to join NATO but also urged it to enter peace talks with Moscow.
Erdogan also said Russian President Vladimir Putin will pay his first visit to Turkey since the Kremlin launched its invasion of Ukraine 500 days ago. He will discuss prisoner swaps with the Russian ruler next month, he said.
Zelenskiy has been touring the last two days to drum up support for his country’s bid for an invitation to join NATO ahead of the military alliance’s summit next week.