Russian shelling heavily in the east; Ukraine attacks key bridge

KYIV: The Russian army slammed into residential areas all over Ukraine at night, claiming profits, such as Ukrainian troops launched a counter-offensive to try to take back an occupied southern region, hitting the last working bridge over a river in the Russian-occupied Kherson region, Ukrainian authorities said on Saturday.
Three people were killed and 13 others injured in a Russian rocket attack on the city of Kramatorsk on Friday evening, the mayor said. Kramatorsk is the headquarters of the Ukrainian Armed Forces in the war-torn east of the country.
The attack came less than a day after 11 other rockets were fired at the city, one of the two main Ukrainian-occupied missiles in Donetsk province, the center of an ongoing Russian offensive to capture the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine.
Russia’s defense ministry claimed 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 forces and Kremlin-backed rebels are trying to take Ukrainian-occupied areas north and west of the city of Donetsk to expand the separatist self-proclaimed republic. But the Ukrainian army said on Saturday that its forces had prevented a nightly advance towards the smaller towns of Avdiivka and Bakhmut.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov also claimed that Russian attacks near Kramatorsk, 120 kilometers (75 miles) north of the city of Donetsk, destroyed a US-supplied multiple rocket launcher and ammunition. Ukrainian authorities did not acknowledge military losses, but said Russian rocket attacks on Kramatorsk had destroyed 20 residential buildings on Friday.
Neither claim could be independently verified.
The Ukrainian governor of neighboring Luhansk province, part of the battle for the Donbas region and overrun by Russian forces last month, claimed Ukrainian forces still controlled a small area. In Telegram, Luhansk Governor Serhii Haidai wrote that the defending forces were holed up in an oil refinery on the outskirts of Lysychansk, a city Moscow claimed to have taken, and also control areas near a village.
“The enemy is setting fire to the ground at the entrances to the Luhansk region because he cannot overcome these few kilometers (Ukrainian resistance),” Haidai said. “It is difficult to count how many thousands of shells this area of ​​the free Luhansk region has endured over the past month and a half.”
Further west, the governor of the Dnipropetrovsk region reported more Russian shelling of the city of Nikopol, which sits across the Dnieper River from Europe’s largest nuclear power plant.
Governor Yevhen Yevtushenko did not specify whether Russian troops had fired at Nikopol from the occupied Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant. He wrote on Telegram on Saturday that there were no casualties, but that residential buildings, a power line and a gas pipeline were damaged.
Nikopol has been subjected to daily bombing raids for most of the past week, and a salvo of shells killed three people and damaged 40 apartment buildings on Thursday, he said.
Russian and Ukrainian officials have been accusing each other for days of shelling the Zaporizhzhya plant in violation of nuclear safety rules. Russian forces have occupied the factory since the early days of the Moscow invasion, although the factory’s pre-war Ukrainian nuclear workers continue to run the factory.
Ukrainian military intelligence claimed on Saturday that Russian troops fired on the factory from a village just a few miles away, damaging a gas station and fire station. The intelligence directorate said the Russians had taken people to the power plant and mounted a Ukrainian flag on a self-propelled gun on the outskirts of Enerhodar, the city where the plant is located.
“Clearly it will be used for yet another provocation to accuse Ukraine’s armed forces,” the directorate said without elaborating.
Ukrainian officials have repeatedly claimed that Russian forces cynically used the plant as a shield while firing at communities across the river, knowing Ukrainian forces were unlikely to fire back for fear of a nuclear accident.
They said Russian shelling on Friday night killed a woman and injured two other civilians in the city of Zaporizhia, which is 122 kilometers (76 miles) from the factory. Ukraine’s southern Mykolayiv region also said a woman was killed in shelling there.
The Ukrainian military has spent weeks trying to lay the groundwork for a counter-offensive to retake the Russian-occupied Kherson region of southern Ukraine. A local Ukrainian official reported on Saturday that a Ukrainian strike had damaged the last working bridge over the Dnieper River in the region and further paralyzed Russian supply lines.
“The Russians no longer have the option to fully transfer their equipment,” Serhii Khlan, a deputy for the Kherson Regional Council, wrote on Facebook. His claims could not be immediately verified.
In the north, five civilians were injured overnight when Russia fired missiles at the Kharkiv border region, home to Ukraine’s second-largest city.
The governor of neighboring Sumy said 200 rockets have been fired at his region from Russian territory in the past 24 hours. Sumy Governor Dmytro Zhyvytsky reported widespread crop loss as wheat fields caught fire, but he did not name any casualties.

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