Russian forces pound Ukraine, Zelenskiy warns of more serious attacks
Aug 22 (Reuters) - Russian forces pressed on with their offensive across several Ukrainian regions on Monday, while President Volodymyr Zelenskiy warned of the potential for more serious attacks ahead of Ukraine's 31st anniversary of independence from Soviet rule.
Artillery shells rained down on Nikopol, a city near Zaporizhzhia - Europe's biggest nuclear plant, while missiles struck near the Black Sea port of Odesa over the weekend.
Zelenskiy has called for vigilance, saying Moscow could try "something particularly ugly" ahead of Wednesday, which marks Ukraine's Independence Day and also half a year since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24.
Zelenskiy said he had discussed "all the threats" with French President Emmanuel Macron and word had also been sent to other leaders including Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
"All of Ukraine's partners have been informed about what the terrorist state can prepare for this week," Zelenskiy said in his nightly video address, referring to Russia.
He also said if Russia went ahead with plans to try captured Ukrainian defenders in Mariupol, then it would have violated international rules and cut itself off from negotiations.
"If this despicable show trial were to go ahead ... this would be the line beyond which negotiations are no longer possible," he said. "There will be no more conversations. Our state has said everything."
The Financial Times, in an article published Sunday, quoted Gennady Gatilov, Moscow's ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, as saying Erdogan had tried to facilitate dialogue.
But he dismissed speculation about talks between Zelenskiy and Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying there "was not any practical platform for having this meeting", the report said.
In Russia, authorities are investigating a suspected car bomb attack outside Moscow that killed the daughter of Alexander Dugin, an ultra-nationalist Russian ideologue who advocates Russia absorbing Ukraine.
While investigators said they were considering "all versions" when it came to establishing who was responsible, the Russian Foreign Ministry speculated there could be a link to Ukraine, something a Zelenskiy adviser dismissed.
"Ukraine, of course, had nothing to do with this because we are not a criminal state, like the Russian Federation, and moreover we are not a terrorist state," Mykhailo Podolyak said on Ukrainian TV.
MORE RUSSIAN STRIKES
As Ukraine prepared to mark its Independence Day embroiled in a war that has flattened towns and cities, killed thousands and forced millions to flee, officials reported more Russian strikes on targets in the east and south of the country.
In the eastern Bakhmut region, Russian forces inflicted damage from artillery and multiple rocket launcher systems in the areas of Soledar, Zaytseve and Bilogorivka settlements, Ukraine's General Staff said in its daily update on Monday.
They continued to focus their efforts on establishing full control over the territories of Luhansk and Donetsk regions, maintaining the captured areas of Kherson and parts of Kharkiv, Zaporizhzhia, and Mykolaiv regions, the General Staff added.
Of particular concern is the shelling of Nikopol.
Nikopol was shelled on five different occasions overnight, regional governor Valentyn Reznichenko wrote on Telegram on Sunday. He said 25 artillery shells hit the city, causing a fire at an industrial premises and cutting power to 3,000 residents.
The fighting near Zaporizhzhia and a missile strike on the southern town of Voznesensk, not far from Ukraine's second-largest atomic plant, have spurred fears of a nuclear accident.
On Sunday, U.S. President Joe Biden, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Macron held a phone call stressing the importance of ensuring the safety of nuclear installations, while underlining their "steadfast commitment" to Ukraine.
Moscow says it is engaged in a "special military operation" to disarm and "denazify" its neighbour. Ukraine and its allies say Moscow has launched an unprovoked war of aggression.
Russia said on Sunday that its Kalibr missiles had destroyed an ammunition depot containing missiles for U.S.-made HIMARS rockets in Ukraine's southeastern Odesa region, home to ports critical to a U.N.-brokered plan to help Ukrainian agricultural exports reach world markets again.
Kyiv said a granary had been hit.
Reuters was not able to independently verify the battlefield reports.
Reporting by Ron Popeski and Natalia Zinets; Writing by Himani Sarkar; Editing by Stephen Coates