heavy Russian bombardment eastward; Ukraine hits a major bridge

Kyiv, Ukraine (AP) – The Russian military pounded residential areas across Ukraine overnight, claiming gains, as Ukrainian forces pressed a counterattack to try to retake occupied southern territory, striking the last working bridge over a river in the Russian-occupied Kherson region. Ukrainian authorities said on Saturday.

A Russian missile attack on the city of Kramatorsk killed three people and wounded 13 others on Friday night, 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 another 11 missiles were fired at the city, one of the two main Ukraine-controlled in Donetsk province. Russian offensive continues to seize the Donbass region in eastern Ukraine.

Russia’s Defense Ministry claimed on Saturday that its forces had captured the village of Pesky on the outskirts of Donetsk city, the regional capital claimed by pro-Moscow separatists since 2014.

Russian forces Kremlin-backed rebels are seeking to seize Ukraine-controlled areas north and west of Donetsk city to expand the self-proclaimed separatist republic. But the Ukrainian military said on Saturday that its forces had blocked an overnight advance towards the smaller towns of Avdiivka and Bakhmut.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov also claimed that Russian strikes near Kramatorsk, 120 kilometers (75 miles) north of Donetsk city, destroyed a multiple rocket launcher and ammunition supplied by the United States. The Ukrainian authorities did not acknowledge any military losses, but said that Friday’s Russian missile strikes on Kramatorsk destroyed 20 apartment buildings.

None of the claims could be independently verified.

The Ukrainian governor of neighboring Luhansk province, which is part of the fighting over the Donbass region and was overrun by Russian forces last month, claimed that Ukrainian forces still control a small area. Luhansk Governor Serhiy Heidi, writing on Telegram, said the defending forces were still hiding inside an oil refinery on the edge of Lyschansk, a city Moscow claimed to have captured, and they also control areas near a village.

“The enemy is burning the ground at the entrances to the Luhansk region because it cannot overcome (Ukrainian resistance along) these few kilometers,” Heyday said. “It is difficult to calculate how many thousands of shells have withstood this area of ​​the Luhansk Free Zone over the past month and a half.”

To the west, the governor of the Dnipropetrovsk region reported further Russian bombing of the city of Nikopol, located across the Dnieper River from Europe’s largest nuclear power plant..

Governor Yevhen Yevtushenko did not specify whether Russian forces had fired at Nikopol from the occupied Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant. And he wrote on Telegram, Saturday, that there were no injuries, but that residential buildings, a power line and a gas pipeline were damaged.

He said Nikopol was bombed daily for most of the past week, and a barrage of shells killed three people and damaged 40 apartment buildings on Thursday.

Russian and Ukrainian officials have been accusing each other for days of bombing the Zaporizhzhya plant in contravention of nuclear safety rules. Russian forces occupied the station from the early days of the conquest of Moscow, although Ukrainian nuclear workers at the pre-war facility continued to operate it.

On Saturday, Ukrainian military intelligence claimed that Russian forces bombed the station from a village just kilometers away, damaging a pumping station and a fire station. The Intelligence Directorate said the Russians took people to the power station and raised the Ukrainian flag on a self-propelled gun on the outskirts of Enerhodar, the city where the station is located.

“It is clear that it will be used for another provocation to accuse the Ukrainian armed forces,” the directorate said, without elaborating on details.

Ukrainian officials have repeatedly claimed that Russian forces were cynically using the station as a shield while firing on communities across the river, knowing that Ukrainian forces were unlikely to respond out of fear of a nuclear accident.

They said that Russian bombing on Friday night killed a woman and wounded other civilians in the city of Zaporizhia, about 53 km from the factory. The Mykolaiv region of southern Ukraine said a woman was killed there in a bombing.

For several weeks, the Ukrainian army tried to prepare the ground for a counterattack To restore the Kherson region in southern Ukraine occupied by Russia. A Ukrainian strike has damaged the last operating bridge over the Dnieper River in the region and further paralyzed Russian supply lines, a local Ukrainian official reported on Saturday.

“The Russians no longer have any ability to fully deliver their equipment,” Serhiy Khelan, a deputy in the Kherson Regional Council, wrote on Facebook. His claims could not be verified immediately.

Ukrainian officials repeatedly mentioned a planned counter-offensive to retake the Russian-occupied parts of the south of the country. They urged residents not to post information on social media about military actions related to it, and warned that any relevant announcements might come with a time lag.

Days after the bombings targeting a Russian air base in Crimea Kyiv has to destroy up to 12 planes, a Ukrainian presidential adviser said, should make restoring the Black Sea peninsula captured by Moscow more than eight years ago one of its war goals.

Russia started a war against Ukraine and the world in 2014, with its brazen takeover of Crimea. “It is clear that this war must end with the liberation of Crimea,” Mikhailo Podoillak, chief of staff of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, wrote on Twitter on Saturday. And also with the legal sanction of the initiators of the “special military operation” – the Kremlin’s term for its war in Ukraine.

Ukrainian officials have not claimed responsibility for the bombings at the Saki air base on Tuesday. Russian defense officials denied that any aircraft were damaged – or that any attack took place – and attributed the explosions to the eruption of munitions at the site.

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Follow the AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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