Russia removes Polish flag from Soviet massacre memorial as forces continue 'massive bombardment' of Ukraine

Kremlin authorities have removed a Polish flag from a memorial commemorating Poles killed by the Soviet Union, amid heightened tensions between Moscow and Warsaw over the war in Ukraine.

Historians and visitors noted that flags had been removed from the Katyn memorial in western Russia's Smolensk region.

The mayor of Smolensk city confirmed the removal on Friday evening, publishing a photo showing the Russian flag flying alone at the memorial's entrance.

"There cannot be Polish flags on Russian monuments. Even less so after the frankly anti-Russian comments by Polish political leaders," Andrei Borisov said on social media platform VKontakte.

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"The culture ministry of the Russian Federation made the right decision by removing the Polish flag. Katyn is a Russian memorial."

It comes as Russian advances continue with local reports suggesting dozens of Russian missiles have simultaneously hit military facilities in western and northern Ukraine.

Russia launched artillery and air strikes on the twin cities of Severodonetsk and Lysychansk on Saturday, hitting a chemical plant where hundreds of civilians were trapped.

A woman walks past a shell crater in front of a damaged residential building in the town of Siversk, Donetsk region, on June 23, 2022, amid Russia's military invasion launched on Ukraine. - via Getty Images

Serhiy Gaidai, governor of the Luhansk region, said Russian forces attacked Sievierodentsk's industrial zone and also attempted to enter and blockade Lysychansk.

Vitaliy Bunechko, governor of the Zhytomyr region in the north of Ukraine said strikes on a military target killed at least one soldier.

He confirmed that 10 missiles were intercepted but "Nearly 30 missiles were launched at one military infrastructure facility very near to the city of Zhytomyr," said Bunechko.

An update from the MoD read: “Ukraine is likely re-configuring its defence of the Sieverodonetsk-Lysychansk sector, as Russian armoured units continue to make creeping gains on the southern edge of the build up area.

"Since the start of June, the Russian high command has highly likely removed several Generals from key operational command roles in the war in Ukraine.

“These includes the commander of Airborne Forces (VDV) General-Colonel Andrei Serdyukov; and commander Southern Group of Forces (SGF) General of the Army Alexandr Dvornikov.”

It added: “Dvornikov was also for a time probably acting as over-all operational commander.

"Command of the SGF is likely to transfer to Colonel-General Sergei Surovikin, as SGF continues to perform a central part in Russia’s offensive in the Donbas. For over thirty years, Surovikin’s career has been dogged with allegations of corruption and brutality.”