Ukraine says dozens of Russians killed in southern fighting

  • Kyiv says more than 100 Russian soldiers were killed on Friday
  • Ukraine says rail links to Kherson via Dnipro have been cut
  • UK spy chief says Russia is ‘running out of steam’
  • Russia publishes list of Ukrainian prisoners of war killed and wounded

KYIV, July 30 (Reuters) – Ukraine’s military said on Saturday it had killed dozens of Russian soldiers in fighting in the south, including the Kherson region which is at the center of Kyiv’s counteroffensive in this part of the country and a key link in supply lines from Moscow.

Rail traffic to Kherson via the Dnipro River has been cut off, the Southern Military Command said, potentially further isolating Russian forces west of the river from supplies in occupied Crimea and to the east.

British defense and intelligence officials, who have been one of Ukraine’s staunchest allies in the West since the February 24 invasion of Moscow, described Russian forces as struggling to maintain momentum.

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Ukraine has used long-range missile systems supplied by the West to severely damage three bridges over the Dnipro in recent weeks, cutting off the city of Kherson and – according to the assessment of British defense officials – leaving the 49th Russian army stationed on the highly vulnerable west bank of the river.

The Ukrainian army’s southern command said more than 100 Russian troops and seven tanks were destroyed in the fighting in the south on Friday.

The first deputy head of the Kherson regional council, Yuri Sobolevsky, told residents to stay away from Russian munitions dumps.

“The Ukrainian army is unleashed against the Russians and this is just the beginning,” Sobolevsky wrote on the Telegram app.

The pro-Ukrainian governor of the Kherson region, Dmytro Butriy, said the Berislav district was particularly affected. Berislav is across the river northwest of the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Station.

“In some villages, not a single house was left intact, all infrastructure was destroyed, people live in cellars,” Butriy wrote on Telegram.

Reuters could not independently verify the information.

Officials of the Russian-appointed administration that rules the Kherson region earlier this week dismissed Western and Ukrainian assessments of the situation.

In an intelligence update on Saturday, Britain’s Ministry of Defense said Russia likely established two pontoon bridges and a ferry system to compensate for bridges damaged in Ukrainian strikes.

Russian-installed authorities in occupied southern Ukraine may have been preparing to hold referendums on joining Russia later this year, and “likely were coercing the population into divulging personal information in order to compile electoral lists,” he added. Read more

On Friday, the ministry described the Russian government as “increasingly desperate”, having lost tens of thousands of soldiers in the war. The head of Britain’s MI6 foreign intelligence agency, Richard Moore, added on Twitter that Russia is “running out of steam”.

DEATH IN PRISON

Ukraine and Russia have swapped accusations over a missile strike or explosion that appears to have killed dozens of Ukrainian prisoners of war in the eastern province of Donetsk. The incident happened early Friday in the frontline town of Olenivka held by Moscow-backed separatists.

The Russian Defense Ministry on Saturday released a list of Ukrainian prisoners of war it said were killed and injured in a missile strike by the Ukrainian military. He said the US-made HIMARS rocket strike killed 50 prisoners and injured 73 others.

Ukraine’s armed forces have denied responsibility, saying Russian artillery targeted the prison to hide the mistreatment of those held there. Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Friday that Russia had committed a war crime and called for international condemnation.

Reuters could not immediately verify the various versions of events, but some of the deaths were confirmed by Reuters reporters who visited the prison.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed his condolences over the death in a Friday phone call with Kuleba, according to a State Department statement released Saturday.

The United States is committed to “holding Russia accountable for the atrocities committed by its forces against the Ukrainian people,” Blinken told Kuleba.

The UN is ready to send a group of experts to Olenivka to investigate the incident, if it gets the consent of both sides, UN spokesman Farhan Haq said. The International Committee of the Red Cross said on Friday it was seeking access to the site and had offered to help evacuate the injured.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said on Saturday that “all political, criminal and moral responsibility for the bloody massacre against Ukrainians lies with (Ukrainian President Volodymyr) Zelenskiy, his criminal regime and Washington which support them.”

A charity linked to the Ukrainian Azov Regiment said on Telegram that it was not immediately able to confirm or deny the authenticity of the Russian list of those killed and injured.

Ukraine has accused Russia of atrocities and brutalities against civilians since its invasion and said it has identified more than 10,000 possible war crimes. Russia denies targeting civilians and has denied allegations of war crimes.

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Reporting from the offices of Reuters Writing by Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen Editing by Lincoln Feast, William Mallard and Frances Kerry

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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