Battle of Huliaipole

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Battle of Huliaipole
Part of the southern Ukraine offensive of the Russian invasion of Ukraine
Members of the Sheikh Mansur Battalion in the defense of Huliaipole.png
Members of the Sheikh Mansur Battalion in the defense of Huliaipole, October 2022
Date5 March 2022 – present
(2 years, 3 weeks and 4 days)
Location
Status Ongoing
Belligerents
Flag of Russia.svg  Russia Flag of Ukraine.svg  Ukraine
Units involved

Banner of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation (obverse).svg  Russian Armed Forces

Ensign of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.svg  Ukrainian Armed Forces

The battle of Huliaipole is an ongoing military conflict between the Armed Forces of Russia and the Armed Forces of Ukraine over the city of Huliaipole, in central Zaporizhzhia Oblast.

Contents

In the first weeks of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Russian forces captured and occupied the southern part of Zaporizhzhia Oblast. They pushed as far as the Ukrainian cities of Orikhiv and Huliaipole, before the offensive stalled and the front line stabilised just south of Huliaipole. Russian efforts to capture the city were frustrated by the Ukrainian forces.

In May 2022, the Russian forces began an intensive shelling of Huliaipole, which has been carried out on a daily basis in the months since. Civilian infrastructure, including residential buildings, cultural centres and agricultural facilities, were damaged and destroyed during the bombardment. In response to the sustained bombardment of Huliaipole, the Security Service of Ukraine has accused the Russian armed forces of committing war crimes.

Initial offensive

During the course of the southern Ukraine offensive of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Huliaipole lost power and water from 2 March 2022. [1] The following day, Russian forces captured the nearby city of Polohy. [2] On 5 March, Russian forces briefly entered Huliaipole. [1]

On 15 March, the Russian Armed Forces were conducting combat operations around Huliaipole. [3] A Ukrainian missile division led by Dmytro Vasyliev  [ uk ] struck back at the Russian forces near Huliaipole, but on 18 March, Vasyliev was fired upon by Russian forces and died from his injuries the day after. He was posthumously awarded the Order of the Gold Star, which was presented to his wife and child by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. [4] On 26 March, the Zaporizhzhia regional military administration claimed Ukrainian forces had recaptured the villages of Poltavka and Malynivka east of Huliaipole after heavy fighting. [5]

By 30 March, Huliaipole had experienced almost a month of nightly shelling, while its population had decreased to around 2,000, with around a dozen civilian deaths. [1]

On 21 April, three Russian helicopters were shot down over Huliaipole by a Ukrainian man-portable air-defense system, forcing a nearby Russian tank column to retreat, while Ukrainian long range artillery also destroyed 24 Russian tanks and 10 APCs in the area around the city. Serhiy Yarmak, the mayor of Huliaipole, reported that local Ukrainian forces had named their defensive positions after Nestor Makhno, a native of Huliaipole that fought in the Ukrainian War of Independence. [6]

On 25 April, the Russian forces began concentrating their efforts on capturing Huliaipole, reinforcing their own positions and firing on Ukrainian ones. [7] The following day, three people were wounded and a number of houses destroyed during a Russian artillery bombardment, which continued for a number of days. [6] The provincial government of Zaporizhzhia later reported that Russian troops in the area were shooting their own cars, in order to not get sent to the front at Huliaipole, and that they were also complaining about the ineffectiveness that their attacks had on the Territorial Defense Forces. [8]

Shelling

May 2022

On 6 May, the Russian forces began to shell the city with artillery and airstrikes. [9] Roman Balinsky, a soldier in the Ukrainian Mechanized Infantry, reported that his brigade "barely had time to dig in when they started bombing us." Balinsky was almost killed in a Russian tank attack on his trench, but his life was saved by field surgeons. [10]

In response to the shelling, Serhiy Yarmak ordered an evacuation of the town's residents. [11] On 14 May, it was reported that many residential buildings had been damaged or destroyed during the continued bombardment, [12] an act which the Security Service of Zaporizhzhia considered to be a war crime. [13] Russian forces also destroyed the road between the Ukrainian-held Huliaipole and the Russian-held city of Polohy, using land mines. [14] [15] That same day, Serhii Parkhomenko, a commander in the 229th Tactical Aviation Brigade, was shot down and killed near Huliaipole. He was posthumously awarded the title "Hero of Ukraine", which was presented to his family by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. [4]

June 2022

5-storey house in Huliaipole after Russian shelling on 30 June 2022 Huliaipole after Russian shelling (2022-06-30) 01.jpg
5-storey house in Huliaipole after Russian shelling on 30 June 2022

In June, Russian forces deployed multiple rocket launchers to shell Huliaipole's remaining civilian infrastructure. [16] Oleksandr Starukh, the governor of Zaporizhzhia Oblast, reported that the Ukrainian defensive line was being reinforced at Huliaipole, where clashes were still ongoing. [17] On 7 June, a 10 year-old child was wounded in a Russian artillery strike against Huliaipole. [18]

On 9 June, the Chief Intelligence Directorate of the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence reported that the bodies of Russian soldiers who died fighting in Huliaipole had been taken to a meat packing plant in Russian-occupied Melitopol, and accused the Russian government of downplaying the number of casualties. [19] The Chief Intelligence Directorate also revealed that they had attempted to break the siege of Mariupol in early April, but the detachment sent from Huliaipole to break into the city was repelled by the Russian defensive line. [20]

On 13 June, the Russian Air Force launched a series of airstrikes against Ukrainian positions at Huliaipole. [21] The Russian armed forces reportedly continued to target civilian infrastructure, rather than directly engaging Ukrainian forces. [22] According to the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, this continued bombardment was being carried out in order to pin down the Ukrainian forces in Huliaipole, as part of an attempt by Russian forces to capture the city of Sievierodonetsk. [23] [24] Mortars, artillery and multiple rocket launchers were fired against Ukrainian positions in Huliaipole by Russian forces, but the Ukrainians were able to repel the Russian offensive. [25] Small gains were made by the Ukrainian forces in the area around Huliaipole, although this came at a high personnel cost, with many Ukrainians being injured in the artillery fire. [26]

On 18 June, shelling against Huliaipole continued, damaging several residential and commercial buildings, and wounding a number of civilians. [27] [28] On 28 June, in order to pin down Ukrainian forces as part of the Russian offensive against Lysychansk, Russian forces bombarded Ukrainian positions in Huliaipole. [29]

July 2022

Following Russian missile attacks against Huliaipole on 12 July, the National Police of Ukraine reported that cluster bombs had exploded in nearby agricultural fields and burnt down over 600 hectares of grain. [30] Although the Russian Armed Forces were not conducting any further offensive operations in Zaporizhzhia, they continued to shell Huliaipole. [31]

On 19 July, the Russian Armed Forces began regrouping their troops in Zaporizhzhia and started concentrating their efforts on capturing the region. [32] That date, Russian forces shelled Huliaipole using a BM-21 Grad multiple rocket launcher system and artillery, causing damage to a number of administrative and residential buildings, and reportedly leaving a number of casualties, with the State Emergency Service of Ukraine putting out fires in the aftermath. [33] On 21 July, Serhiy Yarmak reported that over 1,000 homes and nearly all of the town's infrastructure had been damaged during the months of heavy shelling. [34] Russian forces continued to shell civilian and military infrastructure in Huliaipole into August, but did not take any further military actions in the area. [35]

August 2022

Destroyed sports complex Sports complex in Huliaipole after Russian shelling, 2022-08-22 (02).jpg
Destroyed sports complex

On 12 August, the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces reported that Russian forces had opened fire against Ukrainian positions at Huliaipole, but they were repelled. [36] As part of their effort to advance towards Zaporizhzhia, Russian forces then conducted aerial reconnaissance near Huliaipole. [37] Further shelling of Huliaipole was reportedly conducted by Russian tanks and artillery, [38] which were subsequently followed by airstrikes. [39] Sustained bombardment of Huliaipole by Russian artillery and airstrikes [40] resulted in the destruction of a sports complex on 22 August. [41] On the night of 28 August, a Russian Kh-22 missile reportedly struck a housing community in the regional capital of Zaporizhzhia, where a number of Huliaipole residents had been sheltering after fleeing their home city. [42] Meanwhile, the Ukrainian General Staff reported on the continuation of Russian airstrikes against Huliaipole. [43] The Russian air force also carried out reconnaissance around Huliaipole, using unmanned aerial vehicles. [44]

October 2022

Russian forces did not conduct active offensive operations against Huliaipole at the beginning of October 2022, but continued to shell the city, [45] inflicting fire damage, [46] using artillery, mortars and tanks. [47] According to Zaporizhzhia Governor Oleksandr Starukh, the Russian shelling killed Huliaipole's deputy mayor Oleksandr Savytskyi and the local utility service director Oleksandr Kosarenko, who reportedly died at their workplaces. [48] [49] Following the shelling, on 4 October, the Ukrainian Air Force responded by striking back at Russian positions near Huliaipole, destroying some military equipment. [50] [51]

On the night of 16 October, Russian missiles hit and destroyed schools in the neighbouring villages of Vozdvyzhivka  [ uk ] and Dobropillia  [ uk ], just north of Huliaipole, as part of a sustained bombardment against civilian infrastructure in the region. [52] The following day, the Ukrainian Armed Forces carried out strikes against the Russian positions south of Huliaipole, reportedly hitting military equipment and injuring dozens of Russian soldiers. [53] On 19 October, Oleksandr Starukh reported that Russian S-300 missiles had been fired on the city itself, destroying another school without causing any casualties. [54]

November 2022

On 5 November, Ivan Fedorov gave an interview with Ukrinform, in which he claimed that detained residents of Melitopol were being used by the Russian military occupation to dig trenches around Huliaipole. [55] On 7 November, Oleksandr Starukh reported that Russian forces had fired S-300 missiles at a village near Huliaipole, damaging a cultural center and a farm warehouse, along with some homes. [56] On 10 November, while the artillery shelling of Huliaipole continued, the Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces were starting to fortify their positions in the occupied areas of the Zaporizhzhia region, using civilians to help with the construction. [57] The following day, Russian forces carried out missile strikes against civilian infrastructure in Huliaipole, [58] reportedly destroying houses. [59] On 12 November, Ivan Fedorov reported that the 115th Separate Melitopol Battalion of the Territorial Defense Forces had destroyed 4 Russian armored personnel carriers near Huliaipole. [60]

On 18 November, the Ukrainian Armed Forces responded to Russian artillery strikes by carrying out strikes against Russian positions along the contact line, [61] [62] wounding more than 100 soldiers and destroying 20 pieces of military equipment. [63] On 21 November, Petro Andriushchenko reported that the movement of Russian military equipment and manpower from Mariupol had changed direction towards Huliaipole, confirming that two large military convoys had moved towards the city through Nikolske. [64] The shelling of Ukrainian military positions and civilian infrastructure in Huliaipole continued over the subsequent days, [65] [66] as the Russian armed forces started to conduct active defensive operations in the area. [67] [68] [69] [70]

December 2022

Huliaipole Local Museum after Russian shelling in December 2022 Huliaipole Local Museum after Russian shelling (2022-12-24) 02.png
Huliaipole Local Museum after Russian shelling in December 2022

Following a successful counteroffensive that had resulted in the capture of Kherson by Ukrainian forces, attentions began to shift towards a possible offensive in Zaporizhzhia. Since the capture of Kherson, Russian helicopter activity around Huliaipole became more frequent and artillery shelling of Ukrainian positions at Huliaipole intensified, [71] as Russian military equipment was moved towards the city. [72]

On 9 December, Russian and Ukrainian forces at Huliaipole exchanged artillery fire, in response to what Russian intelligence reported to be a massing of Ukrainian mechanized infantry around the city, prompting further speculation of a Ukrainian offensive in the region. [73] On 12 December, UNESCO reported that a cultural center and a Kingdom Hall were among the cultural sites in Huliaipole that were damaged by the Russian strikes. [74] Russian forces also began massing troops around Melitopol, in response to the increasing Ukrainian numbers around Huliaipole. [75]

January–February 2023

Huliaipole after long-term Russian shelling (January 2023).

On 7 January, during the Russian-proposed "Christmas truce", approximately 230 shells hit the city. [76]

Having remained largely on the defensive for the first weeks of 2023, [77] on 18 January, the Russian forces attempted an offensive against Orikhiv and Huliaipole, but were unsuccessful. [78] On 22 January, Vladimir Rogov announced that Russian troops were moving towards Orikhiv and Huliaipole as part of a general offensive in Zaporizhzhia Oblast. [79] Ukrainian armed forces repelled the offensive, with Russian officials claiming that their advance had stalled. [80] Reports indicate that Russian forces managed to seize a previously-occupied strip of "no-man's land" closer to the cities, although Ukrainian forces reported no large-scale assault in the area. [81] Russian forces in the area were reportedly held back at the town of Charivne  [ uk ], preventing them from moving up the road towards Orikhiv and Huliaipole. [82]

In February 2023, Russian forces began to regroup, reportedly preparing for a new offensive [83] [84] On 22 February 2023 Russian forces launched attacks against the Ukrainian-held areas of the Zaporizhzhia front, but were repelled. [85] Throughout the subsequent shelling of the contact line, the Russian armed forces remained on the defensive. [86] [87]

March–May 2023

On 14 March 2023, Huliaipole's mayor Serhiy Yarmak reported that shelling had decreased over the preceding month and that there were still 3,000 residents remaining in the city, including 93 children. According to Yarmak, the hospital continued to treat patients in its basement, local police patrolled the streets to prevent Ukrainian troops from buying alcohol and garbage collectors did their usual routes now in body armour and helmets. Yarmak himself also wears fatigues and armour, sporting a patch that read "Be afraid of hell and the guy from Makhno-city." [88]

On 24 April, Vladimir Rogov, leader of the We Are Together with Russia organisation, claimed that 12,000 Ukrainian troops had massed near Huliaipole. [89]

On 19 May, Yuriy Malashko reported that Russian forces had begun flooding fields and mining dams in Zaporizhzhia Oblast, in anticipation of a Ukrainian counteroffensive. Strikes against Huliaipole, Orikhiv and Mala Tokmachka also increased during this time, in what Malashko believed was an attempt by Russian forces to deter such a counteroffensive. He also reported that, over the previous month, Russian troops had looted homes in the occupied parts of the region and removed documents from the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant. [90]

Counteroffensive

June 2023

On 4 June, the Armed Forces of Ukraine launched a counteroffensive on the southern and eastern fronts, with Ukrainian forces reportedly carrying out limited attacks against Russian positions near Mala Tokmachka and the Russian forces responding with airstrikes against Ukrainian positions at Huliaipole. [91] A pro-Russian official in the occupied Zaporizhzhia Oblast claimed that the Ukrainian forces were attempting to break through Russian lines and push towards the Azov Sea. [92] Upon returning from the Huliaipole front, governor of Zaporizhzhia Yuriy Malashko confirmed Ukrainian intentions to take the Azov coast and cut the Russian land bridge to Crimea, but cautioned that it would be "very difficult because the Russians have been digging defenses for more than a year." [93]

Over the following days, Ukrainian attacks in eastern Zaporizhzhia continued, [94] with Russian forces claiming to have repelled a Ukrainian ground attack near Velyka Novosilka. On 7 June, skirmishes took place in western Zaporizhzhia, as Ukrainian forces attempted to push south from Orikhiv, but were repelled. Russian and Ukrainian sources also reported a series of explosions near Tokmak. [95] On 9 June, combat operations in western and eastern Zaporizhzhia resulted in incremental gains by the Ukrainian forces, at the expense of some western-supplied tanks being destroyed. The same day, the Russian-installed governor of Zaporizhzhia Oblast Yevgeny Balitsky announced the creation of a "people's militia" to police the occupied parts of the region. [96] On 10 June, Ukrainian attacks south from Orikhiv continued, making marginal gains, aided by western equipment. Ukrainian forces also destroyed a number of Russian thermobaric artillery systems in the region, damaging their capacity to repel Ukrainian attacks. [97] Ukrainian forces reportedly advanced 300 to 500 metres south during their counterattacks in Zaporizhzhia. [98]

July 2023

Following the first month of the counteroffensive, by the beginning of July 2023, the Ukrainian forces had managed to push back Russian forces slightly from Huliaipole. This resulted in relatively less Russian shelling of the city centre, with the front line now resting at 6 kilometres away from the city. [99] Nevertheless, Russian forces continued to deploy artillery against front line towns in Zaporizhzhia, [100] with Yuriy Malashko reporting a man had been injured in Huliaipole and 64 cases of property damage. [101] Russian forces in Zaporizhzhia Oblast continued to focus on preventing the Ukrainian advance, conducting sustained artillery bombardment of front line towns. [102] During the Russian shelling on 6 July, Malashko reported that a 56-year-old woman was killed in Huliaipole. [103]

Russian attacks continued into the second week of July, with artillery shelling of Huliaipole and air strikes against Orikhiv. [104] On 9 July, a Russian guided aerial bomb hit a school in Orikhiv while humanitarian aid was being distributed there, killing four people and leaving more trapped beneath the rubble of destroyed residential buildings. [105] Russian forces continued to fire on the city as search and rescue operations were underway, [106] with the death toll rising to seven as people were found underneath the rubble. [107]

Shelling of front line towns in Zaporizhzhia, including Orikhiv, Huliaipole and Zaliznychne, continued as Russian forces attempted to prevent further Ukrainian advances. The Dune Hotel in Russian-occupied Berdiansk was also attacked, killing a number of Russian military personnel. [108] Meanwhile, Ukrainian forces conducted offensive operations in the directions of Melitopol and Berdiansk, consolidating their positions and striking Russian positions. [109] Russian forces subsequently carried out air strikes against Mala Tokmachka and artillery strikes against Huliaipole and Zaliznychne, but the Ukrainian offensive towards Melitopol and Berdiansk continued to take territory and consolidate the Ukrainian position on the front line. [110] During the sustained artillery shelling of front line towns, a Russian UAV also hit the regional capital of Zaporizhzhia, damaging infrastructure and injuring a man. [111] On 13 July, a Russian attack on Orikhiv killed a 40-year-old man and injured another. Three people were later injured in a Russian MLRS attack against Stepnohirsk and Shahed 131 drones were shot down over Zaporizhzhia Oblast. [112] During continued strikes against front line towns, seven more people were injured in a Russian MLRS attack on Stephnohirsk on 16 July, [113] while Ukrainian offensive operations continued. [114]

While Ukrainian offensive operations in Zaporizhzhia Oblast stalled, Russian forces saw a successful offensive operation that took the village of Chernove, east of Huliaipole. [115] Russian shelling of front line towns also continued, [116] killing a 72-year-old woman and injuring five other civilians in an air strike against Orikhiv. [117] On the night of 18-19 July, Russian forces also carried out missile attacks against the city of Zaporizhzhia, UAV attacks against Olhivske, air strikes against Orikhiv and artillery shelling of other front line towns, including Huliaipole. [118] Meanwhile, the 35th Russian Army carried out offensive operations around Huliaipole, in order to reinforce the road towards Polohy. [119] Huliaipole's mayor Serhiy Yarmak reported that attacks against the city were again intensifying, as Russians began carrying out air strikes against it. [120] During a Russian attack against Huliaipole on 21 July, four agricultural workers were killed. [121] [122] [123]

As shelling of front line towns continued, Russian forces attempted to retake Pryiutne, but were unsuccessful. [124] [125] Meanwhile, Ukrainian forces continued to advance in the direction towards Berdiansk, but no movement was taken towards Melitopol due to the dense mining along the frontline. [126] In an attempt to prevent the Ukrainian advance on these fronts, Russian attacks against front line towns continued, [127] [128] [129] injuring two people in Orikhiv. [130] On 30 July, Ukrainian forces were able to break through Russian defensive lines in Huliaipole district, advancing towards the village of Pryiutne. [131] According to the Institute for the Study of War, the Ukrainian advances in Zaporizhzhia were "tactically significant", as they had forced Russia to divert some of its forces away from other parts of the front line, presenting further opportunities for a Ukrainian breakthrough. [132] Interviews with the 74th Battalion of the 102nd Brigade, stationed at Huliaipole, found them to be relatively optimistic about the progress of the counteroffensive. [133]

August 2023

Russian attempts to halt the Ukrainian advance persisted into August 2023, with continued shelling of front line towns, including Huliaipole, Zaliznychne and Kamianske, among others. [134] [135] [136] [137] [138] On 6 August, Russian forces attempted to advance in the area near Robotyne, but they were unsuccessful, and artillery shelling of Huliaipole continued. [139] During the subsequent Russian attacks against front line towns in Zaporizhzhia, Huliaipole was attacked 4 times by drones, while a man was killed in his home by a Russian airstrike on Novodanylivka. [140] On 9 August, an MLRS attack against Huliaipole wounded two women and two men, who were taken to hospital in Zaporizhzhia city. [141] [142] On 13 August, Russian forces again attempted to retake ground near Robotyne, but were again unsuccessful. [143] On 17 August, Russian forces reported that they had repelled a Ukrainian attack on Dorozhnianka, 6 kilometres south of Huliaipole. [144]

Throughout the month, the bombardment of front line towns such as Huliaipole continued, with UAVs, [145] MLRS [146] and artillery. [147] [148] [149] [150] [151] [152] [153] [154] [155] Ukrainian police have extensively documented the results of the shelling in the region, in order to build a criminal case for war crimes charges. [156] On 19 August, an elderly woman was killed and an elderly man hospitalized during the Russian shelling of Huliaipole. [157] The following week, on 26 August, a man and a woman were injured in the Russian shelling of Huliaipole. [158] On 27 August, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy publicly thanked Sergeant Yevhen Puzanov and Captain Oleh Novokhatko of the State Emergency Service for their service in Huliaipole, which he reported had saved lives. [159]

September 2023

As Ukrainian forces continued their offensive in the direction of Melitopol and repelled attacks against Robotyne, Russian artillery and mortar attacks were carried out against Huliaipole. [160] During the Russian shelling of frontline towns in Zaporizhzhia, on 26 September, an elderly man was killed and a 64-year-old woman injured in Huliaipole and Plavni. [161] Russian forces attempted to retake their positions at Chernove, while shelling Huliaipole with artillery and mortars. [162] On 30 September, Ukrainian forces repelled a Russian attack on Novodarivka, a Ukrainian-held town in the region of Huliaipole. Meanwhile, the city of Huliaipole itself continued to undergo artillery and mortar shelling. [163]

October 2023

On 7 October, Russian forces launched 113 attacks on frontline towns of Zaporizhzhia, including Huliaipole. [164] Artillery and mortar fire against Huliaipole continued the following day. [165] Having restructured the Southern Group of Forces, on 9 October, Russian forces initiated a limited offensive operation against Huliaipole. [166] A Russian battalion was reported to have advanced towards Huliaipole by hundreds of meters, while simultaneous offensives were carried out by Russian forces throughout the Zaporizhzhia contact line. [167] A 62-year-old woman was injured during Russian air strikes and rocket bombardment against the city. [168] [169] Huliaipole continued to sustained mortar and artillery fire as Russian forces attempted to retake their positions near Robotyne. [170] [171] [172]

As further artillery and UAV strikes were carried out against the city, inspections found that 44% of shelters in the Zaporizhzhia region had been made inoperable by the consistent bombardment. [173] On 27 October, the United Nations reported that it had delivered a convoy of humanitarian aid to Huliaipole, supplying the city with medicine, hygienic products and shelter kits. UN official Stéphane Dujarric reported that it was that year's 13th humanitarian convoy to Zaporizhzhia Oblast. [174] That same day, Yuriy Malahsko reported that there had been Russian drone attacks against the city and other frontline settlements, [175] followed by artillery shelling on 30 October. [176] On 31 October, Huliaipole was again shelled with artillery and mortars as Russia again unsuccessfully attempted to regain its positions near Robotyne. [177]

November 2023

As Ukrainian forces advanced on the front towards Melitopol on 4 November, Huliaipole was hit by Russian artillery and mortar attacks. [178] On 9 November, Russian forces attempted to conduct counter-offensive operations along the Zaporizhzhia front, but were repelled by Ukrainian forces. [179] As Russian forces continued their attempts to advance near Robotyne, Huliaipole continued to be hit by artillery and mortar fire. [180] Although shelling of Huliaipole and other front line towns continued, [181] by 23 November, Russian forces had halted their offensive operations on the Zaporizhzhia front. [182] They carried out another attempted advance against Robtyne on 25 November, but were unsuccessful and continued the artillery and mortar shelling of Ukrainian front line towns. [183] The following day, they again paused their offensive operations in Zaporizhzhia. [184] Artillery shelling of front line towns continued through the subsequent days, with UAVs being deployed to attack Huliaipole. [185] On 28 November, Russian forces again unsuccessfully attempted retake their lost ground near Robotyne and Novopokrivka, while continuing to shell Huliaipole. [186] [187]

Stalemate

December 2023

By December 2023, Ukrainian commander-in-chief Valerii Zaluzhnyi had declared the Ukrainian counteroffensive to have resulted in a stalemate, although this was rebuffed by Ukrainian president Zelenskyy. [188] As offensive actions slowed, the Centre for Eastern Studies reported that Huliaipole, along with Orikhiv, Polohy, Tokmak and Vasylivka, had experienced the most environmental degradation on the southern frontline through Zaporizhzhia Oblast. [189] Huliaipole and other Ukrainian-held frontline towns were shelled by Russian artillery on 10 December. [190] Shelling intensified over the subsequent week, with Huliaipole being hit by both UAV and artillery strikes. [191] [192] As Ukrainian forces repelled Russian attacks along the Zaporizhzhia front on 16 December, artillery and mortar shelling of Huliaipole continued, [193] damaging a residential building. [194] Russian MLRS and UAV attacks were carried out against Huliaipole and other frontline towns over the following day, damaging infrastructure and injuring two civilians in nearby Huliapilske. [195] Further artillery shelling destroyed residential buildings and infrastructure, [196] [197] [198] while Ukrainian forces continued to repel Russian attacks. [199]

On 23 December, Russian attempts to push Ukrainian forces out of their positions on the Zaporizhzhia front line were unsuccessful; shelling of Huliaipole with artillery and mortars continued, [200] followed by UAV strikes that damaged residential buildings and civilian infrastructure. [201] On 24 December, Ukrainian forces repelled an attack against Huliaipole by Russian forces, which intensified shelling of the city with artillery and mortar fire. [202] [203] Another Russian attack against Huliaipole was repelled on 25 December. [204] [205] Artillery and mortar shelling continued as further Russian attacks on the front line were repelled. [206] On 29 December, Russian forces confirmed that they had initiated a counteroffensive in the eastern part of Zaporizhzhia Oblast. Geolocation confirmed the Russian capture of Dorozhnianka, a town immediately south of Huliaipole. [207] UAV attacks against Huliaipole continued into the end of the month. [208]

January 2024

In the new year, mortar and artillery shelling of Huliaipole continued, while Ukrainian forces repelled Russian attacks against Robotyne, [209] Verbove, Novoprokopivka and Cherbove  [ uk ]. [210] Through the first two weeks of 2024, Russian forces were unsuccessful in gaining ground on this front. [211] As shelling of Huliaipole continued, Russian attacks against nearby Staromaiorske and Urozhaine were also repelled. [212] On 20 January, Yuriy Malashko reported that the Russian shelling of Huliaipole had wounded a resident in his own yard. [213] [214] While more houses were damaged and destroyed during the bombardment, Malashko described the city as "enduring but unbreakable". [215] Drone strikes and artillery shelling against Huliaipole continued the following day, injuring a 71-year-old resident. [216] MLRS attacks against the city were also carried out on 23 January, destroying residential buildings and infrastructure. [217] Artillery and mortar attacks also hit the city on 27 January, [218] followed by UAV attacks on the night of 28-29 January, [219] and artillery strikes again on 31 January. [220]

February 2024

On 2 February 2024, Huliaipole was hit by drone strikes and artillery bombardment, damaging houses and civilian infrastructure, as part of a wave of drone strikes against front line towns in Zaporizhzhia. [221] Russian forces didn't take any further offensive operations in the region, but continued to shell the city with artillery and mortars, [222] followed by UAV and artillery strikes. [223] Drone strikes of front line towns, including Huliaipole, continued into the second week of February. [224] After the removal of Valerii Zaluzhnyi from his post as commander-in-chief on 8 February, graffiti expressing support for the general was seen on a wall in Huliaipole. [225] [226] Artillery and mortar attacks against the city persisted, as Russian forces unsuccessfully attempted to break through Ukrainian lines at Verbove. [227] This was followed by drone attacks on 9 February, [228] and artillery and mortar attacks on 10 February, with Russian offensive operations subsiding. [229] Further drone attacks were carried out the following day, damaging buildings, [230] with air strikes hitting the city the day after that. [231] A 67-year-old resident of Huliaipole was injured in the attacks. [232] [233] [234]

In the second week of February, as artillery and mortar shelling of Huliaipole continued, Russian forces attacked Mala Tokmachka, [235] Verbove and Robotyne, but were repelled. [236] This was followed by UAV strikes and artillery bombardment of the city. [237] On 19 February, offensive operations by Russian forces were repelled at Malynivka and Robotyne, while Huliaipole faced continued mortar and artillery shelling. [238] Residential buildings and infrastructure were damaged in the artillery bombardment. [239] The following day, while artillery shelling persisted, Russian attacks against Mala Tokmachka and Robotyne were repelled. [240] The city was then hit with UAV and artillery strikes on 21 February. [241] [242] By 24 February, Russian attacks in the Zaporizhzhia region had greatly intensified, [243] killing a 61-year-old woman and injuring a 32-year-old man in an attack against Huliaipole. [244] Ukrainian towns in Zaporizhzhia were attacked 200 times in the last day of February, with Huliaipole being attacked with UAV strikes. [245]

March 2024

As Russian forces attempted to advance near Robotyne in the first days of March, Huliaipole was shelled by Russian mortars and artillery. [246] Drone strikes hit the city on 2 March, [247] followed by artillery and mortar shelling the following day. [248] [249] On 5 March, Russian forces attempted to attack Huliaipole, but were unsuccessful. [250] [251] The following day, Huliaipole was hit by Russian aerial missiles, while more Ukrainian artillerymen arrived in the city. [252] On 9 March, Huliaipole was shelled by Russian mortars and artillery. [253] On 12 March, two elderly women were injured by the Russian artillery shelling of Huliaipole, [254] [255] [256] which continued into the following week. [257] [258] [259] By this time, Russian forces had intensified their active offensive operations against the city of Huliaipole. [260] On 21 March, Russian forces carried out UAV and artillery strikes against the city. [261] On 24 March, Huliaipole was hit by MLRS attacks, UAV strikes and artillery shelling. [262] On 26 March, it was hit by drone strikes and artillery shelling, in a mass shelling of the Zaporizhzhia region by Russian forces. [263] [264] Drone and artillery strikes continued to the end of the month. [265]

Humanitarian impact and war crimes investigations

Huliaipole has endured "months of relentless attacks" during the battle. [266] [267] By November 2022, having faced constant shelling for eight months, the coming winter became a concern for the people of Huliaipole, which was beginning to face negative temperature. As the city no longer had electricity, food was cooked over open fires and water was drawn from wells. Volunteer aid workers distributed warm clothing and food to the locals, who Reuters reported were sheltering from the shelling together in cramped basements. [267] Huliaipole and Orikhiv have both received aid packages from non-governmental organization such as Slava Ukraini, whose volunteers came under mortar fire during one of their dispatches. [268]

In late January 2023, Huliaipole's historic synagogue was damaged in a Russian missile attack. This prompted condemnation from Israeli politician Ze'ev Elkin, whose family is originally from the city, [269] [270] as well as Ukraine's Chief Rabbi Moshe Reuven Azman. [271] [272]

Throughout the attacks against Huliaipole, aid agencies under the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHR) sent supply convoys to the city on 5 February 2023, bringing relief supplies including water bottles, as the city had been lacking drinking water since the war began. [273] On 8 April 2023, two civilians were injured in Russian airstrikes on Orikhiv and Huliaipole, which also damaged agricultural and residential buildings in the cities. In response, the Security Service of Ukraine initiated a pre-trial investigation into alleged Russian war crimes in Zaporizhzhia Oblast. [274] On 11 April, after a guided missile hit Huliaipole, damaging civilian infrastructure, Zaporizhzhia governor Yuriy Malashko recommended that city's residents limit any visits to cemeteries and announced that restrictions on civilian activity would be introduced during Holy Week. [275] In total, four guarded aerial bombs hit Orikhiv and Huliaipole over the course of that day. [276] Andriy Yermak, the head of the Ukrainian Coordination Headquarters for Humanitarian and Social Affairs, also announced that the damage caused to the cities was being assessed. [277]

On 22 May, Ukrainian volunteers of the Unity of People organization announced that they had set up a shelter which they called an "invincibility point" in Huliaipole, providing food, electricity and hot water for the town's remaining residents. [278] Facing artillery strikes every few hours, Huliaipole's residents have come to avoid the mostly-destroyed city centre, largely keeping to their basement shelters. [279] Viktor Mirzenyi, a resident who fled the city after he was permanently disabled by a mortar strike on his home, says that he and his mother talk often of returning "but there is nothing there, no water, no electricity, nothing left." [280]

By June 2023, electricity, water, and gas services were completely absent. The town has "emptied out", with only approximately 100 mostly elderly residents remaining in the town that had a pre-war population of 12,000. [266] A hospital was also destroyed the same month. [281] According to British journalist Colin Freeman, writing for The Telegraph, "Huliaipole makes a fair claim to be one of the most war-ravaged [towns] in Ukraine". [282] Al Jazeera journalist Alex Gatopoulos reported that the city's residents and its aid infrastructure were largely kept in basements: "life for the people who have remained [in Huliaipole] has moved underground." [283] By February 2024, there were no more buildings left in the city that could provide adequate cover from Russian shelling, with almost all of the city's houses having been damaged or destroyed. The remaining social centre of Huliaipole is a crowded bomb shelter, where electricity is provided by a generator and residents store their basic necessities, known as the "Point of Invincibility". [284]

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