Ukraine said Tuesday 52 Russians were killed in a long-range missile attack on an ammunition dump in southern Ukraine. Moscow disputed the claim, saying seven civilians had been killed.
Kyiv said the attack in the town of Nova Kakhovka in the Kherson region came after the United States supplied Ukraine with advanced HIMARS mobile artillery systems, which Ukraine said its forces were using with greater accuracy.
“Based on the results of our rocket and artillery units, the enemy lost 52 (people), a Msta-B howitzer, a mortar and seven armored and other vehicles, as well as an ammunition depot in Nova Kakhovka,” Ukraine’s southern military command said in a statement.
The region Ukraine hit is one that Russia seized after launching its invasion on February 24. With access to the Black Sea, the area is of strategic importance.
A Russian-installed official in Kherson gave a different version of events, saying at least seven people had been killed and that civilians and civilian infrastructure had been hit.
Russia’s TASS news agency quoted Vladimir Leontyev, head of the Russia-installed, Kakhovka district military-civilian administration, as saying at least seven people had been killed in the attack and about 60 wounded.
“There are still many people under the rubble. The injured are being taken to the hospital, but many people are blocked in their apartments and houses,” Leontyev said in the TASS account. He was also quoted as saying that warehouses, shops, a pharmacy, gas stations and a church had been hit.
Russia and Ukraine have accused each other of indiscriminately killing civilians in the war. The United Nations human rights office said Tuesday that 5,024 civilians had been killed in Ukraine since the invasion began, while adding that the actual toll was likely much higher.
Ukraine’s deputy prime minister on Sunday urged civilians in Kherson to evacuate, as Kyiv’s armed forces were preparing a counterattack.
“It’s clear there will be fighting, there will be artillery shelling … and we therefore urge (people) to evacuate urgently,” Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said on national television.
Meanwhile, fighting continued in eastern Ukraine, where Russian troops were shelling Ukrainian-held positions in Donetsk province.
Regional Donetsk Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko told a briefing there was a significant buildup of Russian troops, particularly in the Bakhmut and Siversky areas, and around Sloviansk and Kramatorsk.
The whole front line in the region was under constant shelling as Russian troops tried to break through but were being repelled, he said.
Britain’s Defense Ministry said Russian forces continued to make “incremental territorial gains” in Donetsk.
The British statement said Russia is likely maintaining pressure on Ukrainian forces while “regrouping and reconstituting for further offensives in the near future.”
Officials in the Donetsk town of Chasiv Yar said the death toll from a Russian missile strike last Saturday on an apartment building rose to 34, with nine people having been safely rescued from the rubble.
Chasiv Yar is about 20 kilometers southeast of Kramatorsk, a city that is expected to be a major target of Russian forces as they push farther westward into Donetsk province after claiming victory more than a week ago in the adjoining Luhansk province. Donetsk and Luhansk make up the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine, near Russia’s border.