KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian authorities said on Tuesday their forces targeted a Russian ammunition depot in southern Ukraine overnight, resulting in a massive explosion captured on social media.
Ukraine’s army southern command said a rocket strike targeted the Russian-held Nova Kakhovka depot, about 55 kilometers east of the Black Sea port city of Kherson, also occupied by Russian forces.
The accuracy of the strike suggested that Ukrainian forces used US-supplied High Mobility Multiple Launch Artillery Rocket Systems, or HIMARS, to strike the area. Ukraine has indicated in recent days that it may launch a counter-offensive to reclaim territory in the south of the country as Russia devotes resources to capturing the entire eastern region of Donbass.
Russian news agency Tass offered a different account of the Nova Kakhovka explosion, saying a mineral fertilizer storage facility had exploded and a market, hospital and homes were damaged during the explosion. struck. Some of the fertilizer ingredients can be used for ammo.
A satellite photo taken Tuesday and analyzed by The Associated Press showed extensive damage. A massive crater stood precisely where a large warehouse-like structure once stood in the city,
Ukraine now has eight of the HIMAR systems, a high-precision truck-mounted missile launcher, and Washington has promised to send four more.
Elsewhere in Ukraine, Russian shelling over the past 24 hours has killed at least 16 civilians and injured 48 others, Ukraine’s presidential office said in its Tuesday morning update. Towns and villages in five southeastern regions came under Russian fire, the office said.
Nine civilians were killed and two others injured in Donetsk province, which represents half of Donbass. Russian rocket fire targeted the cities of Sloviansk and Toretsk, where a kindergarten was hit, the presidential office said.
The British military said on Tuesday that Russia was continuing to make “small incremental gains” in Donetsk, where heavy fighting led the province’s governor last week to urge its remaining 350,000 residents to move to more places. safe in western Ukraine.
The death toll from the Russian rocket attack that hit a building in Donetsk on Saturday has risen to 38, Ukrainian officials said Tuesday afternoon. Donetsk regional military administration chief Pavlo Kyrylenko said on social media earlier in the day that nine injured people had been rescued from the Chasiv Yar building.
Yet many residents of Donbass, a fertile industrial region in eastern Ukraine made up of Donetsk and Luhansk provinces, are unwilling – or unable – to flee, despite dozens of civilians being killed and injured each week.
In Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, and its surrounding region, Russian strikes hit residential buildings, killing four civilians and injuring nine, Ukrainian officials said.
“The Russians are continuing their tactics of intimidating the peaceful population of the Kharkiv region,” Kharkiv Governor Oleh Syniehubov wrote on Telegram on Tuesday.
Ukrainian authorities also said Russian fire hit the southern city of Mykolaiv on Tuesday morning, hitting residential buildings. Twelve people were injured as a result of the Russian bombardment, with some of the rockets hitting two medical facilities, regional governor Vitaliy Kim said on Telegram.
Air raid sirens sounded in the western city of Lviv on Tuesday – the first daytime sirens in more than a week – and in other parts of Ukraine as Russian forces continued to advance.
In eastern Luhansk, “fighting continues near villages” on the administrative border with neighboring Donetsk, Luhansk Governor Serhiy Haidai told The Associated Press on Tuesday.
“The Russian army burns everything in its path. The artillery barrage does not stop and sometimes continues for four to six hours,” Haidai said.
The British Ministry of Defense briefing said Russia had seized the Ukrainian town of Hryhorivka and was continuing to push towards the provincial towns of Donetsk, Kramatorsk and Sloviansk.
“Russian forces are likely to maintain military pressure on Ukrainian forces while regrouping and reconstituting for further offensives in the near future,” the intelligence briefing said.
However, Russia could rely more on private military contractors, such as the Wagner Group, to avoid widespread mobilization, the British ministry said. Western officials accused Wagner of using mercenaries to fight in Africa and elsewhere.
In other developments:
— The Kremlin has said Russian President Vladimir Putin will visit Iran next week. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Putin would travel to Tehran next Tuesday to attend a trilateral meeting with Iranian and Turkish leaders, a format for Syria-related talks. US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told reporters on Monday that Russia was seeking hundreds of Iran’s surveillance drones, including weapons-capable drones, for use in Ukraine.
– Russian and Turkish military representatives plan to meet in Istanbul on Wednesday to discuss the transport of Ukrainian grain across the Black Sea, a Russian Foreign Ministry official said. Piotr Ilyichyov, head of the ministry’s international organizations department, told Russia’s Interfax news agency that “representatives of Ukraine, as well as UN (officials) in the role of observers” should also participate in the talks. Ilyichyov reiterated that Moscow is ready “to help ensure the navigation of foreign commercial vessels for the export of Ukrainian grain”.
– Germany’s justice minister said investigating war crimes in Ukraine would likely take “many years”, but he was confident they would eventually succeed. Justice Minister Marco Buschmann said there will “probably be hundreds of thousands if not millions of pieces of evidence that will need to be sifted through, documented and assessed”. Germany’s federal prosecutor’s office said in early March that it had begun investigating possible war crimes committed by Russian forces in Ukraine. Buschmann spoke on Tuesday in Prague, where he and his European Union counterparts were meeting.
Jon Gambrell in Lviv, Ukraine and Isabel DeBre in Tehran, Iran contributed to this report.
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