Intense Russian bombardment in the east; Ukraine strikes a key bridge
KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — The Russian military pounded residential areas across Ukraine overnight, claiming gains, as Ukrainian forces launched a counteroffensive in an attempt to retake an occupied southern region, striking the last working bridge over a river in the Russian-occupied region of Kherson, Ukrainian authorities announced on Saturday.
A Russian rocket attack on the city of Kramatorsk killed three people and injured 13 on Friday evening, according to the mayor. Kramatorsk is the headquarters of Ukrainian forces in the war-torn east of the country.
The attack came less than a day after 11 more rockets were fired at the town, one of two major Ukrainian-held towns in Donetsk province, at the center of an ongoing Russian offensive to capture the Donbass region in eastern Ukraine.
The Russian Defense Ministry said on Saturday that its forces had taken control of Pisky, a village on the outskirts of the city of Donetsk, the provincial capital claimed by pro-Moscow separatists since 2014.
Russian troops and Kremlin-backed rebels are seeking to take over Ukrainian-held areas north and west of the city of Donetsk to expand the separatists’ self-declared republic. But the Ukrainian army said on Saturday that its forces had prevented a night advance towards the small towns of Avdiivka and Bakhmut.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov also claimed that Russian strikes near Kramatorsk, 120 kilometers (75 miles) north of the city of Donetsk, destroyed a multiple rocket launcher and ammunition provided by the United States. Ukrainian authorities acknowledged no military casualties but said Friday’s Russian missile strikes on Kramatorsk destroyed 20 residential buildings.
Neither claim could be independently verified.
The Ukrainian governor of neighboring Luhansk province, which is part of the fight for the Donbass region and was overrun by Russian forces last month, said Ukrainian troops still hold a small area. Writing on Telegram, Luhansk Governor Serhii Haidai said defending troops remained locked in an oil refinery on the outskirts of Lysychansk, a town Moscow claimed to have captured, and also controlled areas near a village .
“The enemy is burning the ground at the entrances to the Luhansk region because they cannot defeat (Ukrainian resistance along) those few kilometers,” Haidai said. “It is difficult to count how many thousands of shells this territory of the free Luhansk region has withstood over the past month and a half.
Further west, the governor of the Dnipropetrovsk region reported further Russian shelling of the town of Nikopol, which lies across the Dnieper from Europe’s largest nuclear power plant.
Governor Yevhen Yevtushenko did not say whether Russian troops fired on Nikopol from the occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. Writing on Telegram, he said on Saturday there were no casualties but residential buildings, a power line and a gas pipeline were damaged.
Nikopol has come under daily shelling for most of the past week, and a volley of shells killed three people and damaged 40 apartment buildings on Thursday, he said.
For days, Russian and Ukrainian officials have been accusing each other of bombing the Zaporizhzhia power plant in violation of nuclear safety rules. Russian troops have occupied the plant since the early days of the Moscow invasion, although pre-war Ukrainian nuclear workers continue to run it.
Ukrainian military intelligence said on Saturday that Russian troops were shelling the plant from a village a few kilometers away, damaging a pumping station and a fire station. The intelligence leadership said the Russians transported people to the power plant and mounted a Ukrainian flag on a self-propelled gun on the outskirts of Enerhodar, the town where the plant is located.
“Obviously it will be used for yet another provocation to blame the Ukrainian armed forces,” the leadership said, without giving further details.
Ukrainian officials have repeatedly alleged that Russian forces cynically used the plant as a shield while firing on communities across the river, knowing that Ukrainian forces were unlikely to retaliate for fear of triggering an accident. nuclear.
They said Russian shelling Friday night killed a woman and injured two other civilians in the town of Zaporizhzhia, 122 kilometers (76 miles) from the plant. The Mykolaiv region in southern Ukraine also said a woman died there in shelling.
For several weeks, the Ukrainian army tried to lay the groundwork for a counter-offensive to reclaim the Russian-occupied Kherson region in southern Ukraine. A local Ukrainian official reported on Saturday that a Ukrainian strike had damaged the last working bridge over the Dnieper in the region and further crippled Russian supply lines.
“The Russians no longer have the capacity to fully return their equipment,” Serhii Khlan, deputy of the Kherson Regional Council, wrote on Facebook. His claims could not immediately be verified.
In the north, five civilians were injured overnight when Russia launched missiles at the border region of Kharkiv, home to Ukraine’s second-largest city.
The governor of neighboring Sumy said 200 missiles had been fired at his area from Russian territory in the past 24 hours. Sumy Governor Dmytro Zhyvytsky reported widespread crop loss when wheat fields caught fire, but he did not mention any casualties.
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