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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Russian forces are pounding towns and villages in southern Kherson region

A U.S. military official said that an American Reaper drone was brought down in international waters after one of two intercepting Russian jets hit its propeller. Russia denied that the jet made contact.

By Marc Santora

Russian forces bombarded Ukrainian towns and villages on the west bank of the Dnieper River, which marks the front line between the warring sides in the southern Kherson region, pounding the area with more than 400 shells fired from tanks and artillery while also dropping explosives from drones, Ukrainian officials said Tuesday.

The attacks may be a sign that Russia is trying to interfere with preparations for a Ukrainian counteroffensive in the south, which senior Ukrainian military and political leaders say will get underway by summer at the latest.

The city of Kherson and neighboring communities have been targeted by Russian shelling since Ukrainian forces drove them from the area in November, but daily Ukrainian military reports of attacks have indicated a marked increase in the intensity of assaults in recent weeks.

While Ukrainian officials release daily updates on Russian strikes that hit civilian targets, they do not release details about any damage to military equipment or concentrations of troops.

At least one person was killed and six more wounded in the Russian attacks on the Kherson region over the past 24 hours, Ukrainian officials said. Moscow “carried out 93 attacks, launching 412 shells and rockets from heavy artillery and Grad multiple-launch rocket systems over the last day,” Oleksandr Prokudin, the head of the Kherson regional military administration, said in a statement.

Dmytro Pletenchuk, a spokesperson for the Ukrainian military in the region, said the Russians were bombarding “solely to terrorize and demonstrate military presence.”

Shelling of other areas across the entire stretch of the southern and eastern front lines has also increased, according to Ukrainian military reports, statements from Ukrainian emergency services and video footage, as have attacks on Ukrainian communities near the Russian border.

Russian ground forces have in recent weeks mounted dozens of assaults aimed at breaking through Ukrainian defensive lines, without any strategic gains.

As Moscow continues to throw a vast amount of resources into the battle for Bakhmut, a city in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine that has been devastated by months of fighting, Russian pro-war military bloggers have expressed growing concern that Moscow’s forces could eventually be overwhelmed by what they say are large numbers of Ukrainian troops massing in the south.

Elsewhere, there were overnight reports of shelling in the border regions of Sumy and Kharkiv as well as in towns and villages across other areas of the front line.

In the eastern city of Kramatorsk, a Ukrainian stronghold about 30 miles from the front, one person was killed and at least three people were injured as a result of a Russian rocket attack that damaged at least six buildings in the city center, Ukrainian authorities said. At least two people were killed in Kostiantynivka, about 20 miles south of Kramatorsk, and seven wounded in shelling, officials said. The claims could not be independently confirmed.

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