Russia says its forces have fought oncoming Ukrainian troops to a standstill in the country’s south, inflicting “significant casualties”.
Russian soldiers held their positions during “fierce fighting” in the Kherson region, and Ukrainian troops were also targeted in the eastern part of DonetskRussia’s Defense Ministry said Sunday.
“The enemy made attempts to break through the defenses of the Russian troops in the Koshara and Pyatykhatky areas of the Kherson region with forces of up to three battalions, including a tank battalion,” Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said.
“The Russian army units held their positions in fierce battles, inflicting significant losses on the enemy,” he said.
Al Jazeera could not independently verify the battlefield reports.
Ukraine’s presidential office said Moscow’s military 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 began the evacuation of “state institutions” from Kherson region to Crimea. Shtupun said the Ukrainian army carried out 20 attacks over the past 24 hours.
Russian forces targeted more than 30 towns and villages across Ukraine, firing five missiles and 23 airstrikes and up to 60 rocket attacks, the General Staff of Ukraine’s armed forces said.
Fighting was particularly intense in the eastern provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk and the strategically important Kherson province. They were three of the four provinces Russian President Vladimir Putin proclaimed as part of Russia last month.
Konashenkov acknowledged that Russia attacked Ukrainian regions on Sunday.
“Over the past 24 hours, the Russian armed forces continued to attack with high-precision, long-range, air-launched weapons against military command and control facilities as well as Ukraine’s energy system,” Konashenkov said. “The objectives of the strikes were achieved. All assigned targets were hit.”
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’s a miracle no one was killed,” Alexey Kulemzin said as he surveyed the wreckage.
There was no immediate reaction from Ukraine to the attack on Donetsk city, which was annexed by Russian-backed separatists in 2014, along with much of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions.
Battle for Bakhmut
The momentum of the war has shifted towards Ukraine after it launched a series of counter-attacks seven weeks ago. Its military has recaptured towns, cities and villages that Russia captured early in the war.
While Russia has fallen back over most of Ukraine, the Ukrainian troops in the eastern city of Bakhmut in Donetsk are on the defensive.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Sunday that fighting was raging in the area.
“The main hot spots in Donbas are Soledar and Bakhmut,” Zelenskyy said in his nightly video speech. “There are very tough battles going on.”
Ukrainian soldiers still control the northern and western parts of the city. Pro-Russian separatist forces are pushing 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 capture Bakhmut, which is on a main road 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 latest counteroffensives in the east and south, officials said progress is likely to slow as Kyiv’s forces face more determined Russian resistance.
In Ukraine’s Kharkiv region, Russia said it destroyed three US-made howitzers and a transit point on the Oskil River set up by Ukrainian forces to move reserves and ammunition. The river flows south into the Siversky Donets, which snakes through eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region.
The spokeswoman for Ukraine’s Southern Military Command said Russian forces are suffering severe shortages of equipment, including ammunition, due to damage sustained last weekend in an explosion on a bridge connecting the Russian-occupied Crimean peninsula with Russia.
“Almost 75 per cent [of Russian military supplies in southern Ukraine] encountered that bridge,” Natalia Humeniuk told Ukrainian TV, adding that strong winds had also stopped ferries in the area.
“Now even the sea is on our side,” she said.
Staging the ground strikes
Zelenskyy’s chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, said on Telegram on Sunday that Ukraine would win the war because the continued military aid it receives from the West and the cumulative effect of Western sanctions on Russia’s economy.
“Ukraine’s offensive is strategic and Russia’s defeat is inevitable,” Yermak said.
Meanwhile, Russian officials in western Russia along the border with Ukraine said their air defenses shot down “a minimum” of 16 Ukrainian missiles in the Belgorod region, Russia’s Ria Novosti reported. The regional governor, Vyacheslav Gladkov, said four people were injured.
Russian authorities in border regions have repeatedly accused Kiev of firing into their 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 post for shelling and missile attacks on Ukrainian territory.
On Saturday, two men from a former Soviet republic training at a Russian military shooting range in Belgorod opened fire on volunteer soldiers during target practice. killed 11 people and injured 15 before they themselves were shot dead.
The Russian Defense Ministry, which reported the killings, called the incident a terrorist attack.