Russia says its forces have fought approaching Ukrainian troops to a standstill in the south of the country and inflicted “significant losses.”
Russian soldiers held their positions during “fierce fighting” in the Kherson region and Ukrainian troops also came under fire in the eastern Donetsk region, the Russian Defense Ministry said on Sunday.
“The enemy tried to break through the defense of Russian troops in the Koshara and Pyatykhatky areas in the Kherson region with forces of up to three battalions, including a tank battalion,” Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said.
“Russian army units held their positions in fierce battles, inflicting significant losses on the enemy,” he said.
Al Jazeera was unable to independently verify reports from the battlefield.
Ukraine’s presidential office said Moscow’s army shelled towns and villages along the front line in the east and “active hostilities” continued in the Kherson region.
Ukrainian army spokesman Oleksandr Shtupun said the Russians have begun the evacuation of “state institutions” from the Kherson region to Crimea. Shtupun said that the Ukrainian army carried out 20 attacks in the last day.
Russian forces attacked more than 30 cities and towns in Ukraine, launching five missiles and 23 air strikes and up to 60 rocket attacks, the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said.
Fighting was particularly intense in the eastern Donetsk and Luhansk provinces and in the strategically important Kherson province. They were three of the four provinces that Russian President Vladimir Putin proclaimed as part of Russia last month.
Konashenkov acknowledged that Russia attacked Ukrainian regions on Sunday.
“During the past 24 hours, the Russian armed forces continued to strike with high-precision, long-range air-dropped weapons on military command and control facilities, as well as on Ukraine’s power system,” Konashenkov said. “The goals of the strikes were achieved. All the assigned objectives were achieved.”
Shelling by Ukrainian forces damaged the administration building in the city of Donetsk, the capital of the Donetsk region, the head of its Russian-backed administration said on Sunday.
“It was a direct hit. The building is seriously damaged. It is a miracle that no one has died,” Alexey Kulemzin said as he surveyed the remains.
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 much of the Lugansk and Donetsk regions.
Battle for Bakhmut
The momentum of the war has shifted to Ukraine after it launched a series of counterattacks seven weeks ago. His army has recaptured cities, towns and villages that Russia took earlier in the war.
While Russia has pushed back in much of Ukraine, in the eastern city of Bakhmut in Donetsk, Ukrainian troops are on the defensive.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Sunday that fighting was raging in the area.
“The key hot spots in Donbas are Soledar and Bakhmut,” Zelenskyy said in his late-night video address. “There is very hard fighting there.”
Ukrainian soldiers still control the northern and western parts of the city. Pro-Russian separatist forces have advanced east and south of Bakhmut, relying on their base in the city of Donetsk, 100 km (62 miles) away.
Russian forces have repeatedly tried to seize Bakhmut, which is on a main highway leading to the cities of Slovyansk and Kramatorsk, both in the Donetsk region.
Although Ukrainian troops have recaptured thousands of square kilometers of land in their recent counter-offensives in the east and south, officials said progress is likely to slow once Kyiv forces encounter more determined Russian resistance.
In Ukraine’s Kharkiv region, Russia said it destroyed three US-made howitzers and a crossing point on the Oskil River set up by Ukrainian forces to move stockpiles and ammunition. The river flows south into the Siversky Donets, which meanders through the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine.
The spokeswoman for Ukraine’s Southern Military Command said Russian forces were suffering from a severe shortage of equipment, including ammunition, due to damage caused last weekend by an explosion on a bridge linking the Russian-occupied Crimean peninsula. with Russia.
“Nearly 75 percent [of Russian military supplies in southern Ukraine] I crossed that bridge,” Natalia Humeniuk told Ukrainian television, adding that strong winds had also stopped ferries in the area.
“Now even the sea is on our side,” he said.
Organize ground attacks
Zelenskyy’s chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, said on Telegram on Sunday that Ukraine would prevail in the war due to continued military aid it receives from the West and the cumulative impact of Western sanctions on Russia’s economy.
“Ukraine’s offensive is strategic and Russia’s defeat is inevitable,” Yermak said.
Meanwhile, in western Russia along the Ukrainian border, Russian officials said their air defenses shot down “a minimum” of 16 Ukrainian missiles in the Belgorod region, Russia’s Ria Novosti reported. Regional Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said four people were injured.
Russian authorities in the border regions have repeatedly accused Kyiv of firing into its territory and said civilians were injured. Ukraine has not claimed responsibility for the alleged attacks or commented.
Russia has long used Belgorod as a staging ground for shelling and missile attacks on Ukrainian territory.
On Saturday, two men from a former Soviet republic who were training at a Russian military firing range in Belgorod opened fire on volunteer soldiers during target practice, killing 11 people and wounding 15 before they were shot to death.
The Russian Defense Ministry, which reported the killings, called the incident a terrorist attack.