Ukrainian forces struck the Russian-occupied town of Melitopol over the weekend, opening a new front in Kiev’s fight to reclaim land in the south of the country and underscoring the importance of longer-range weapons.
The attacks hit a number of different locations, including a church used as a base by Russian forces, according to the city’s exiled mayor, Ivan Fedorov, who shared video filmed the night of a blaze burning at the far.
“Fireworks in eastern Melitopol,” he said in a message on social messaging app Telegram on Saturday, saying 200 people had been killed and 300 injured in heavy shelling over the city.
In an interview with Ukrainian television a day later, Federov returned to that figure, saying “dozens” had died. He added that three sites were hit, including a hotel-restaurant complex on the outskirts of Melitopol, known as “Prival Okhotnika”, or Hunter’s Rest, a checkpoint 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the town. from Novobohdanivka, and a military unit that was “completely destroyed” near the village of Semenivka.
Yevgeny Balitsky, the Russian-installed governor of the Zaporizhzhia region, where Melitopol is located, said Ukraine struck Melitopol using a HIMARS system, killing two people and injuring 10 others, including three were treated in hospital – a significantly lower number than was reported by Fedorov.
“The Ukrainian HIMARS were launched on the outskirts of Melitopol. Two missiles were shot down by anti-aircraft defense, but four hit their target,” Balitsky said in a post on Telegram on Saturday, sharing video of emergency services responding to a huge fire. He claimed the targets included a “leisure center”, where civilians and military were dining on Saturday night, but did not name it.
Fedorov claimed in an interview on Monday that Russian troops in the city were “panicking” and “redeploying” in light of Ukrainian strikes on the city. Without providing any evidence, he said “they are busy moving their military groups to other places to try and hide them.”
Melitopol, a southeastern city on the banks of the Molochna River, fell to Moscow in March soon after the invasion. The city’s mayor was kidnapped by Russian forces and later released, while a pro-Kremlin administration was installed.
Melitopol lies south of the city of Zaporizhzhia and east of the city of Kherson, which was recently recaptured by Ukrainian troops. It is a major Russian logistics hub and has been in Russian hands for several months, but has been the target of Ukrainian counterattacks in recent weeks.
Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, underlined the importance of the city in comments made to local news outlet Feigin Live on Saturday.
“If Melitopol falls, the whole defense (of the occupiers) of Kherson collapses, the Ukrainian armed forces jump to the border with Crimea on the isthmus,” Arestovich said.
The attacks on Melitopol came as the Ukrainians also hit a hotel, which is believed to have housed the Wagner mercenary unit in Luhansk.
Heavy artillery fire, including the use of Grad missiles, was also reported in the Dnipropetrovsk region of southern Ukraine overnight, Valentyn Reznichenko, head of the Telegram, told Telegram on Monday. Dnipropetrovsk regional military administration.
The Kiev attacks come amid intensified Russian strikes on Ukraine’s power grid and growing warnings of an energy crisis gripping the country.
Across Ukraine, crews are scrambling to restore energy capabilities faster than Moscow’s troops can knock them out. It’s a tough fight and increasingly terrible as a long winter sets in.
All of Ukraine’s thermal and hydropower plants have been damaged by relentless Russian missile strikes targeting the country’s power system, Ukraine’s prime minister said on Sunday.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said that “there is a significant [power] production deficit” in the country’s energy system, following eight waves of Russian attacks targeting critical infrastructure.
“All thermal and hydropower plants were damaged, and 40 percent of high-voltage grid facilities were damaged to varying degrees,” Shmyhal said. “Each of us must realize that this winter we will have to live with significant restrictions on electricity consumption.”
Russian drone strikes on Odessa, a key port city in southern Ukraine, plunged more than 1.5 million people into darkness over the weekend. Electricity and water supplies were gradually restored in the city, but 300,000 people still remained without power on Sunday, Odessa Mayor Hennadii Trukhanov said in a statement on Telegram.
“The situation is fairly controlled, although not easy,” he said, adding that his administration was reviving pumping stations and delivering water by truck to areas where shortages continued.
President Zelensky said in his evening speech on Sunday that the country’s forces shot down 10 of the 15 drones deployed by Russia over Odessa – a number that could not be independently verified. He called the Russian drone strikes “critical” and suggested it would take a few days to restore electricity supplies to the area.
“The electrical system is now, to say the least, very far from a normal state,” he said.
The port of Odessa is Ukraine’s key to exporting vital food products, especially thanks to its “Grain from Ukraine” initiative, which aims to tackle the global hunger crisis.
Ukrenergo, Ukraine’s state-run energy supplier, reported that there was still a “significant electricity deficit” in the grid.
“The situation in the Odessa region is still difficult, the restoration of power supply to consumers continues,” he said in a Facebook post, adding that the destruction caused by the Russian attacks “does not allow not to fully use the capabilities of thermal power plants, additional time is needed to restore their work.