Russia said on Saturday its forces would step up military operations in Ukraine in "all operational areas" as Moscow's rockets and missiles pounded cities in strikes that Kyiv says have killed dozens in recent days, APA reports citing Reuters.
Rockets hit the northeastern town of Chuhuiv in Kharkiv region overnight, killing three people including a 70-year-old woman and wounding three others, regional governor Oleh Synehubov said.
"Three people lost their lives, why? What for? Because Putin went mad?" said Raisa Shapoval, 83, a distraught resident sitting in the ruins of her home.
To the south, more than 50 Russian Grad rockets pounded the city of Nikopol, on the Dnipro River, killing two people who were found in the rubble, the region's governor Valentyn Reznichenko said.
Ukraine says at least 40 people have been killed in such attacks on urban areas in the last three days. Russia says it has been hitting military targets.
Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu ordered military units to intensify their operations to prevent Ukrainian strikes on eastern Ukraine and other areas held by Russia, where he said Kyiv could hit civilian infrastructure or residents.
"Clearly, preparations are now under way for the next stage of the offensive," said Vadym Skibitskyi, a spokesman for Ukrainian military intelligence, adding that there was Russian shelling along the entire front line and active use of attack helicopters.
Shoigu, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was shown in military fatigues at a command post on the defence ministry's Zvezda TV channel being briefed on the war and awarding "Golden Star" medals for heroism to two generals.
His remarks appeared to be a direct response to what Kyiv says is a string of successful strikes carried out on 30 Russian logistics and ammunitions hubs using several multiple launch rocket systems recently supplied by the West.
Ukraine's defence ministry spokesperson said on Friday that the strikes were causing havoc with Russian supply lines and had significantly reduced Russia's offensive capability.
On Saturday, the Ukrainian military said Russia appeared to be regrouping units for an offensive towards Sloviansk, a symbolically important city held by Ukraine in the Donetsk region.