- Kyiv attacked by Russian drones
- Key hot spots in Donbas are Soledar and Bakhmut – Zelenskiy
- Russia says it repelled Ukrainian advances in several regions
Kyiv, Oct 17 (Reuters) – Russian and Ukrainian forces are engaged in heavy fighting around two towns in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region, while Kyiv was attacked by Russian drones early on Monday, they said. The authorities.
Fighting was heavy this weekend in Donetsk and Lugansk, which make up industrial Donbas, and Kherson province in the south. They make up three of the four regions Russia said it had annexed last month after holding what it called referendums, votes that were denounced by Western and Kyiv governments as illegal and coercive.
“The key hotspots in Donbas are Soledar and Bakhmut,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in his late-night speech on Sunday. “There is very heavy fighting there.”
Sign up now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com
Bakhmut has been a target of Russian forces moving slowly through the region since seizing the twin industrial cities of Lysychansk and Sievierodonetsk in June and July. Soledar is just north of Bakhmut.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said on Sunday that its forces had repelled attempts by Ukrainian troops to advance into the Donetsk, Kherson and Mykolaiv regions. Russia also said it was continuing air strikes against military and energy targets in Ukraine.
Reuters was unable to independently verify reports of the fighting.
Far from the front line, Ukraine’s capital Kyiv was attacked by so-called kamikaze drones on Monday, Andriy Yermak, the president’s chief of staff, wrote on the Telegram messaging service.
“The Russians think it will help them,” Yermak said.
Kyiv Mayor Vitalii Klitschko said on Telegram that multiple explosions had rocked Kyiv’s central Shevchenkivskyi district, with a Reuters witness reporting three blasts.
The same district was hit by explosions a week ago, when Russia ordered the largest-ever air offensive against Ukrainian cities in retaliation for an explosion on a bridge linking mainland Russia to Crimea, the peninsula Russia annexed to Ukraine in 2014.
Ukrainian military analyst Oleh Zhdanov suggested that the heaviest fighting was taking place north of Bakhmut, stating that Ukrainian forces had repelled Russian advances on the towns of Torske and Sprine in the last 24 hours.
“(The Russians) have decided to move through Torske and Sprine,” Zhdanov posted online. “The positions in those places change hands regularly.”
The head of the Russian-backed administration in the Donetsk region said on Sunday that Ukrainian shelling damaged the administration building in the regional capital.
“It was a direct hit, the building is badly damaged. It’s a miracle no one was killed,” Alexei Kulemzin said, surveying the wreckage, adding that all city services were still working.
There was no immediate reaction from Ukraine to the attack on the city of Donetsk, which was annexed by Russian-backed separatists in 2014 along with swathes of Donbas.
Rybar, a pro-Russian military channel on Telegram, said Ukrainian forces again bombed the southwestern city of Belgorod, near Ukraine.
Anti-aircraft units intercepted most of the attacks, but there were two explosions near the airport. Three people were injured, he said.
GUNMAN OPEN FIRE
In Russia, authorities said Sunday, a criminal investigation has been opened after gunmen shot 11 people dead and wounded 15 at a military training camp in the Belgorod region.
Russia’s RIA news agency, citing the Defense Ministry, said two gunmen opened fire with small arms during a training exercise on Saturday, targeting personnel who had volunteered to fight in Ukraine. RIA said the gunmen, whom it referred to as “terrorists”, were shot dead.
The Russian Defense Ministry said the attackers were from a former Soviet republic, without giving further details. A senior Ukrainian official, Oleksiy Arestovych, said the two men were from Tajikistan, a Muslim-majority Central Asian republic, and had opened fire on each other after an argument about religion.
Reuters could not immediately confirm the comments by Arestovych, a leading commentator on the war, or independently verify the number of casualties and other details.
The Belgorod shooting was the latest blow to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “special military operation” in Ukraine that began on February 24.
‘THE SEA IS ON OUR SIDE’
Meanwhile, British military intelligence said Russia faces more acute logistical problems in the south after the Oct. 8 blast caused damage to the road and rail bridge linking mainland Russia with Crimea.
A spokeswoman for Ukraine’s Southern Military Command said Russian forces were suffering from severe equipment shortages due to damage to the bridge.
Nearly 75% of Russian military supplies in southern Ukraine cross the bridge, Natalia Humeniuk told Ukrainian television, adding that strong winds also stopped ferries in the area.
“Now even the sea is on our side,” Humeniuk said.
Russian authorities said the blast was caused by a truck bomb. Putin called the explosion a “terrorist attack” orchestrated by the Ukrainian security services.
Ukraine did not claim responsibility for the explosion, but celebrated it.
Sign up now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com
Reuters bureau reports; Written by Himani Sarkar; Edited by Lincoln Feast and Robert Birsel
Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.