Russia Pummels Ukraine’s Mykolaiv, Killing Top Businessman - Wall Street Journal - 31.07.22

Drone hits Russia’s Black Sea Fleet HQ; Zelensky urges residents of Ukrainian-held parts of Donbas to leave area immediately. Article by Yaroslav Trofimov and Matthew Luxmoore.

KYIV, Ukraine—Russia unleashed some of the worst barrages of the war on Ukraine’s southern port city of Mykolaiv on Sunday, killing among others the owner of one of the nation’s leading agricultural companies, as Moscow reported a drone attack on the headquarters of its Black Sea Fleet.

Mykolaiv, a strategic city that Russia tried but failed to seize in the first weeks of the war, has been repeatedly targeted by Russian Smerch and Uragan missiles and long-range artillery in recent weeks, with a strike using cluster munitions on Friday killing nine people at a busy bus stop.

Sunday’s predawn barrages, which lasted hours, damaged a hotel, a sports facility, two schools, a car-repair workshop and several housing blocks, causing fires in the city, the regional administration said. “Mykolaiv suffered a massive artillery strike—perhaps the biggest ever,” Mayor Oleksandr Senkevich said on social media.

One of the shells hit a Mykolaiv mansion of Oleksiy Vadaturskyi, the controlling shareholder and chief executive of the Nibulon LLC conglomerate, killing him and his wife, the regional administration said.

One of Ukraine’s biggest companies, Nibulon operates its own grains and oilseeds export port in Mykolaiv as well as grain-storage facilities across Ukraine with a capacity of 2.25 million tons, according to the company’s website. Mr. Vadaturskyi, 74, received in 2007 the country’s highest decoration, the Hero of Ukraine title, for his contribution to its development.

Russian artillery and rocket strikes also hammered the northeastern city of Kharkiv and Ukrainian-held towns in Donbas.

On Saturday night, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urged all people living in Donbas to heed a government order to immediately evacuate. Ukraine controls roughly 40% of the Donetsk region, one of the two that make up Donbas, and four weeks ago lost its remaining foothold in the neighboring Luhansk region.

“The more people leave Donbas now, the fewer people the Russian army will have time to kill,” Mr. Zelensky said. “At this stage of the war, terror is the main weapon for Russia.”

Hundreds of thousands of people, including tens of thousands of children, have remained in Ukrainian-controlled areas of Donbas, including in the major cities of Kramatorsk, Slovyansk and Bakhmut.

The Ukrainian government said earlier that, because of nonstop Russian attacks, it won’t be able to provide heating during the coming winter in these cities, and warned that anyone choosing to stay would have to sign a special waiver. Mr. Zelensky pledged full logistical support and financial assistance from the government for those who leave.

Mykhailo Podolyak, a senior Ukrainian presidential adviser, said that he believed Mr. Vadaturskyi was deliberately assassinated because of his role as one of southern Ukraine’s biggest employers. “The precise hit of a missile not just in the building, but a particular wing—the bedroom—doesn’t leave doubt that it was a targeted strike,” he wrote on social media. “The Russian barbarians are carrying out a terror campaign, attempting to intimidate, destabilize and break the Ukrainian society.”

While Russia hasn’t officially commented on Mr. Vadaturskyi’s death, political commentators in the state-controlled media, including Margarita Simonyan, the chief of the Kremlin’s RT television network, exulted in the Ukrainian businessman’s death.

“This is de-Nazification in action,” she wrote, echoing Moscow’s false claim that Ukraine is run by Nazis.

Mr. Zelensky lauded Mr. Vadaturskyi, who established the company the year Ukraine gained independence in 1991, for choosing to stay put in Mykolaiv as the city came under Russian attack—unlike many other oligarchs, who sought safety abroad.

Mr. Zelensky’s appeal for Donbas residents to leave, made during a regular televised address, came as Kyiv called for Russia to be designated a state sponsor of terrorism and continued to push for an international investigation into the killing of scores of Ukrainian prisoners of war in an explosion Thursday night at the Olenivka detention facility in the Russian-occupied part of Donbas. Moscow has accused Ukraine of targeting the facility with Western-made weapons. Kyiv said that the prisoners, most of them members of the Azov battalion captured in Mariupol in May, were deliberately executed in the explosion after having been tortured.

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A firefighter douses smoldering rubble after shelling in Kharkiv, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. UKRAINIAN EMERGENCY SERVICE/AFP/Getty Images

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