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Ukraine Says It Thwarted Major Strike On Airfield; At Least Three Killed In Russian Attack In Kherson

Russia struck a public transport facility in the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson on June 23, killing at least three people as Ukraine grappled with yet another wide-scale attack involving Russian cruise missiles and Iranian-made drones.

In central Ukraine, the military said air defenses thwarted a major air strike, downing all 13 cruise missiles launched by Russia overnight at an airfield in Khmelnitskiy. The military said the attack was carried out around midnight by aircraft from the direction of the Caspian Sea.

The General Staff of the Ukrainian military said in its evening briefing on June 23 that during the day the Russian military carried out 51 air strikes and about 50 attacks from rocket salvo systems on positions of Ukrainian troops and populated areas.

Russia has drastically stepped up the frequency and intensity of its air strikes on Ukrainian infrastructure and cities, in particular on Kyiv, from the beginning of last month, causing numerous casualties among civilians and huge material damage.

Kherson Governor Oleksandr Prokudin said “targeted fire” struck a municipal trolleybus company in Kherson city, instantly killing a 55-year-old employee, and wounding five others. The other two men, a 43-year-old and a 53-year-old, died in the hospital while being treated for their wounds, Prokudin said on Telegram.

Overnight, another air raid alert was declared for several hours throughout Ukraine as Russian forces launched numerous cruise missiles and Shahed drones, the General Staff reported, adding that the consequences of the “massive” raid were being clarified.

On the battlefield, Russian forces made more attempts at attacking Ukrainian positions in the eastern region of Donetsk, the General Staff reported, with heavy fighting under way in Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiyivka, and Maryinka, where more than 27 close-quarter battles were fought during the day on June 23.

Separately, Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar said on June 23 that Ukrainian defenders stopped a Russian offensive in Lyman and in Kupyansk in the Kharkiv region.

“For the last week and a half, we have been fighting very fierce battles on the Kupyansk and Lyman fronts,” Malyar told Ukrainian television.

Regional Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said on Telegram that Russian forces launched an air strike near a chemical plant in Avdiyivka, one of the spots of heavy fighting in Donetsk. It was not immediately known if the plant was damaged.

Ukrainian troops continue to conduct offensive operations in Melitopol and Berdyansk in the south and downed another Russian Ka-52 attack helicopter, the General Staff said in separate reports.

The military said it was the sixth such helicopter shot down by Ukrainian forces over the past several days.

The battlefield reports could not be independently verified by RFE/RL.

Russia’s latest wave of attacks came a day after a key bridge connecting Russia-annexed Crimea with the occupied part of Ukraine’s southern region of Kherson was damaged after being hit by what Moscow said were Storm Shadow missiles donated by Britain.

The strike was carried out on the bridge known as “the gate to Crimea,” which represents the shortest route from the Crimean Peninsula to the front line in southern Ukraine, making it a key link in Russia’s supply line.

Russia-installed officials said the road on the bridge was damaged but that no one was injured, while alternative transport routes had been opened.

Russia illegally annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. Ukraine has vowed to retake it.

Since the start of its much-anticipated counteroffensive, the Ukrainian military has managed to retake several villages in Russia-occupied southern Ukraine.

Presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak on June 23 cautioned against exaggerated expectations from Ukraine’s offensive operations, saying that they currently have the role to prepare the battlefield.

“Real war is not a Hollywood blockbuster. The counteroffensive is not a new season of a Netflix show. There is no need to expect action and buy popcorn,” Podolyak wrote on Twitter. “Offensive operations of the Armed Forces of Ukraine continue in a number of areas. Formation operations are under way to set up the battlefield.”

A Moscow-installed official said on June 23 that a Russian-held bridge connecting southern Ukraine to the Crimean Peninsula has been badly damaged and is “unusable” now.

“The bridge sustained more damage than we initially thought,” Volodymyr Saldo, the head of the Russia-controlled part of Ukraine’s Kherson region, said in televised remarks. Repairs are under way on the Chonhar bridge, which was damaged in a strike on June 22. Saldo said it would be closed to traffic for around 20 days.

The start of Ukraine’s counteroffensive operation in the southern region of Zaporizhzhya has also prompted Russia to transfer part of its strategic aircraft fleet to North Ossetia in the Caucasus, from where it can launch strikes on Ukrainian civilian and military targets, as revealed by Skhemy (Schemes), an investigative project run by RFE/RL.

Schemes has obtained satellite images by Planet Labs, a San Francisco-based commercial company, showing that the Russian Army moved such aircraft to the airfield near the North Ossetian city of Mozdok.

According to the Ukrainian military, Russian TU-22M3 planes took off from the Mozdok airfield on the night of June 22 and launched X-22 cruise missiles at Dnipropetrovsk region, causing damage to civilian infrastructure.

Source : Rferl