By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — Ukrainian forces blasted the Russian-occupied city of Melitopol with more than a dozen explosions lighting up the sky amid conflicting reports of casualties among Russian forces in the area.
Residents of the strategic southern city of some 150,000 people reported that large explosions rang out in eastern Melitopol late on December 10, with fires burning into the morning of December 11.
Several blasts hits a hotel and restaurant complex known as the Hunter’s Halt on the eastern outskirts of the city, area residents reported.
Ivan Fedorov, the exiled mayor of Melitopol, said the former complex was now being used to house 200-300 Kremlin-backed forces and that dozens of them had been killed or wounded.
Fedorov wrote on his Telegram channel that “the wounded were immediately taken to hospitals in [Russia-occupied] Crimea because there are not enough places in Melitopol. Some ambulances are being converted into morgues.”
The reports could not be independently confirmed.
The Ukrainian military did not provide specifics but said targets hit included barracks and were carried out with artillery and missiles.
The Russian-installed authorities said two people were killed and 10 injured in a missile attack around Melitopol, which was seized by Russian forces early following the invasion that began on February 24.
“Air-defense systems destroyed two missiles, and four reached their targets,” Yevgeny Balitsky, the Moscow-appointed governor of the occupied part of the Zaporizhzhya region, wrote on Telegram.
The United States has provided Ukraine with high-mobility artillery rocket systems (HIMARs), which are playing an increasingly important role in Ukraine’s counteroffensives against Russian forces in eastern and southern Ukraine.
Fierce fighting continued elsewhere as Ukrainian forces battled to hold of a Russian drive in the east.
Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskiy has said Russian forces have turned Bakhmut into “ruins” in their continued attempt to encircle the strategic city in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk region, while the Ukrainian military has said it has thwarted the latest attacks in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
In his nightly video address to the nation on December 10, Zelenskiy said the situation “remains very difficult” in several frontline cities in the two partially occupied regions that together make up the Donbas region.
“Bakhmut, Soledar, Maryinka, Kreminna: For a long time, there is no living place left on the land of these areas that has not been damaged by shells and fire,” Zelenskiy said, naming cities that have been targeted by a recent Russian offensive. “The occupiers actually destroyed Bakhmut, another Donbas city that the Russian Army turned into burnt ruins.”
Earlier the same day, the Armed Forces of Ukraine said it had successfully repelled attacks in Bakhmut, as well as in other cities in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
Russia identified capturing the entire Donbas region, parts of which had been controlled by Russian-backed separatists since 2014, as a focus of its war campaign in Ukraine from the onset of its all-out invasion in February. Following military and territorial setbacks in Ukraine’s south and east due to a recent Ukrainian counteroffensive, Russia has placed renewed focus on taking Bakhmut, a key Ukrainian supply hub, by massing troops and military equipment in an attempt to surround the city.
On December 10, the Russian Defense Ministry said Russian troops were also focusing their Donbas offensive in the direction of the Donetsk region city of Lyman, which is 65 kilometers north of Bakhmut, saying they had “managed to take more advantageous positions for further advancement.”
In his video address, Zelenskiy said the situation in Odesa, in southern Ukraine, was “very difficult” after energy infrastructure in the Black Sea port city was struck by Russian forces using Iranian-made drones.
“Unfortunately, the hits were critical, so it takes more than just time to restore electricity,” Zelenskiy said. “It doesn’t take hours, but a few days, unfortunately.”
The strikes by Iranian-made Shahed-136 “kamikaze” drones on two energy facilities left 1.5 million people in the city without power, according to Ukrainian officials.
Moscow has been targeting Ukraine’s energy infrastructure since October with waves of missile and drone strikes, leading to claims by Kyiv and rights groups that Russia is committing war crimes by trying to deprive Ukrainians of heat, electricity, and water as winter approaches.
Iran has come under criticism for supplying Russia with suicide and combat drones to boost the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine.