KYIV: Kyiv said Tuesday it had launched a barrage of rockets and missiles on Russian military targets in southern Ukraine and destroyed an arms depot, in attacks that Moscow-backed authorities said had damaged homes.
The bombardment overnight in the Kherson region – which Russian forces captured soon after they invaded in late February – come as Kyiv’s army tries to claw back territory in the south of the country.
Ukrainian military officials said the strikes had destroyed artillery, armored vehicles “and a warehouse with ammunition in Nova Kakhovka”.
Russian-backed authorities in the city however said Ukrainian strikes had damaged civilian infrastructure and left at least seven people dead, a toll that could not be independently verified.
“There are no military targets here… warehouses were hit, as were shops, a pharmacy, petrol stations and even a church,” the head of the city’s Moscow-backed administration, Vladimir Leontiev, said on social media.
Images published by the Moscow-backed authorities showed several buildings reduced to ash.
The Ukrainian army has for several weeks been waging a counter-offensive on the southern Kherson front, while Russian troops have been focusing on the country’s east.
The deputy head of the pro-Russian authorities in Kherson, Ekaterina Gubareva, accused Ukraine of having used long-range, precision artillery systems supplied by the United States in the strikes in Nova Kakhovka.
– Strikes on medical facilities –
Ukraine has pleaded for sophisticated artillery systems from Western allies to fend of Russian forces, arguing only these weapons could turn the tide of the fighting.
Now military analysts are crediting the newly arrived systems – including Caesars from France and HIMARS from the United States – with attacks deeper in Russian-controlled territory in Ukraine, including on ammunition depots.
During a visit to Kyiv on Monday, Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte said that the Netherlands too would sent more advanced artillery to the front lines.
The United States however cautioned that Moscow was also receiving a weapons boost, with Iran planning to supply hundreds of drones with combat weapon capabilities to Russia for use in Ukraine, a top US official said Monday.
Russian forces early Tuesday launched “massive” strikes on the southern Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv, with missiles hitting two medical facilities and residential buildings, the city’s mayor Oleksandr Sienkevych said.
The regional head, Vitaliy Kim, said 12 people were wounded in those attacks.
– Russian passports –
The epicentre of fighting in Ukraine in recent weeks has however been the industrial east of the country, known as the Donbas, where Moscow’s forces have slowly advanced despite fierce resistance and recent Russian strikes have left dozens dead.
Moscow has concentrated its efforts on the region since failing to capture Kyiv after its February 24 invasion.
Two days after Russian bombardment reduced a residential building in the eastern town of Chasiv Yar to rubble, rescue workers were still clearing the debris and retrieving bodies from the wreckage Tuesday.
The head of the Donetsk region, which has been partially controlled by Moscow-backed separatists since 2014, said that 34 people had so far been confirmed killed by the attack on Sunday.
Nine people were recovered alive, Pavlo Kyrylenko said.
The Kremlin has been working to consolidate its hold over territories it controls like Kherson, both militarily and bureaucratically since the beginning of the conflict.
After Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday passed a decree fast-tracking Russian passports for all Ukrainians, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was expected Tuesday to open a representative office for separatist authorities in Moscow.
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