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Russian Shelling Heavy in East Ukraine 08/13 09:11

   Russia's military pounded residential areas across Ukraine overnight, 
claiming gains, as Ukrainian forces pressed a counteroffensive to try to take 
back an occupied southern region, striking the last working bridge over a river 
in the Russian-occupied Kherson region, Ukrainian authorities said Saturday.

   KYIV, Ukraine (AP) -- Russia's military pounded residential areas across 
Ukraine overnight, claiming gains, as Ukrainian forces pressed a 
counteroffensive to try to take back an occupied southern region, striking the 
last working bridge over a river in the Russian-occupied Kherson region, 
Ukrainian authorities said Saturday.

   A Russian rocket attack on the city of Kramatorsk killed three people and 
wounded 13 others Friday night, according to the mayor. Kramatorsk is the 
headquarters for Ukrainian forces in the country's war-torn east.

   The attack came less than a day after 11 other rockets were fired at the 
city, one of the two main Ukrainian-held ones in Donetsk province, the focus of 
an ongoing Russian offensive to capture eastern Ukraine's Donbas region.

   The Russian Defense Ministry claimed Saturday its forces had taken control 
of Pisky, a village on the outskirts of the city of Donetsk, the provincial 
capital that pro-Moscow separatists have claimed since 2014.

   Russian troops and the Kremlin-backed rebels are seeking to seize 
Ukrainian-held areas north and west of the city of Donetsk to expand the 
separatists' self-proclaimed republic. But the Ukrainian military said Saturday 
that its forces had prevented an overnight advance toward the smaller cities 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 U.S.-supplied multiple rocket launcher and ammunition. 
Ukrainian authorities did not acknowledge any military losses but said that 
Russian missile strikes Friday on Kramatorsk had destroyed 20 residential 
buildings.

   Neither claim could be independently verified.

   The Ukrainian governor of neighboring Luhansk province, which is part of the 
fight over the Donbas region and was overrun by Russian forces last month, 
claimed that Ukrainian troops still held a small area. Writing on Telegram, 
Luhansk Gov. Serhii Haidai said the defending troops remained holed up inside 
an oil refinery on the edge of Lysychansk, a city that Moscow claimed to have 
captured, and 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," 
Haidai said. "It is difficult to count how many thousands of shells this 
territory of the free Luhansk region has withstood over the past month and a 
half."

   Further west, the governor of the Dnipropetrovsk region reported more 
Russian shelling of the city of Nikopol, which lies across the Dnieper River 
from Europe's largest nuclear power plant.

   Gov. Yevhen Yevtushenko did not specify whether Russian troops had fired at 
Nikopol from the occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. Writing on 
Telegram, he said Saturday that there were no casualties but residential 
buildings, a power line and a gas pipeline were damaged.

   Nikopol has undergone daily bombardment for most of the past week, and a 
volley of shells killed three people and damaged 40 apartment buildings on 
Thursday, he said.

   Russia and Ukrainian officials have for days accused each other of shelling 
the Zaporizhzhia plant in contravention of nuclear safety rules. Russian troops 
have occupied the plant since the early days of Moscow's invasion, although the 
facility's pre-war Ukrainian nuclear workers continue to run it.

   Ukrainian military intelligence alleged Saturday that Russian troops were 
shelling the plant from a village just kilometers away, damaging a plant 
pumping station and a fire station. The intelligence directorate said the 
Russians had bused people into the power plant and mounted a Ukrainian flag on 
a self-propelled gun on the outskirts of Enerhodar, the city where the plant is 
located.

   "Obviously, it will be used for yet another provocation to accuse the armed 
forces of Ukraine," the directorate said, without elaborating.

   Ukrainian officials have repeatedly alleged that Russian forces were 
cynically using the plant as a shield while firing at communities across the 
river, knowing that Ukrainian forces were unlikely to fire back for fear of 
triggering a nuclear accident.

   They said Russian shelling on Friday night killed one woman and injured two 
other civilians in the city of Zaporizhzhia, which is 122 kilometers (76 miles) 
from the plant. Ukraine's southern Mykolayiv region also said a woman died 
there in shelling.

   For several weeks, Ukraine's military has tried to lay the groundwork for a 
counter-offensive to reclaim southern Ukraine's Russian-occupied Kherson 
region. A local Ukrainian official reported Saturday that a Ukrainian strike 
had damaged the last working bridge over the Dnieper River in the region and 
further crippled Russian supply lines.

   "The Russians no longer have any capability to fully turn over their 
equipment," Serhii Khlan, a deputy to the Kherson Regional Council, wrote on 
Facebook. His claims could not be immediately verified.

   In the north, five civilians were injured overnight as Russia launched 
missiles at the border Kharkiv region, home to Ukraine's second-largest city.

   The governor of neighboring Sumy said 200 missiles were fired at his region 
from Russian territory in the last 24 hours. Sumy Gov. Dmytro Zhyvytsky 
reported a widespread loss of crops as wheat fields caught fire, but he did not 
mention any casualties.

 
 
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