Russia accuses Ukraine of shelling that leaves at least 25 dead in occupied east

Russia accused Ukraine of shelling the Russian-occupied eastern territories of Kherson and Luhansk on Friday, leaving at least 25 dead.

Kherson and Luhansk were among four Ukrainian territories Russia claimed to have annexed in September 2022 following its full-scale invasion. The international community, aside from North Korea and Syria, does not recognize the annexation.

Vladimir Saldo, the Russia-appointed governor of the southern Kherson region, accused Ukrainian forces of killing 22 people, including a 9-year-old child, in the shelling of the small town of Sadove on Friday.

Saldo claimed that Ukrainian forces did “a double-tap” missile strike on a grocery store and the civilian area in Sadove. The grocery store, he noted, was packed with customers and staff when it was hit. The first attack was carried out using a French-supplied aerial bomb and the successive one with an American-supplied HIMARS missile, he told Russia 24.

Meanwhile, the Russian-appointed head of the self-declared Luhansk People’s Republic, Leonid Pasechnik, said on Telegram a Ukrainian strike on Luhansk killed three people and wounded 35 others.

A rescuer rests next to a destroyed residential building in Luhansk. - AFP/Getty Images
A rescuer rests next to a destroyed residential building in Luhansk. - AFP/Getty Images
A woman cleans debris from an apartment. - Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters
A woman cleans debris from an apartment. - Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova called the strikes “cynical and [a] bloody crime” on Friday and blamed Washington for giving “the green light” to Kyiv “to kill civilians with Western weapons.”

Oleksandr Prokudin, head of the Kherson region military administration, dismissed the Russian claims in a Telegram post on Friday, calling them “a vivid example of how Russian propaganda works.”  Prokudin pointed to Saldo incorrectly citing the attack in Kherson region as happening on Saturday instead of Friday, in an insinutation the claim was made up.

Artem Lysohor, head of Luhansk region military administration, said that the Ukrainian strikes were “exclusively on the old and well-equipped military infrastructure of the occupiers” and blamed Russian air defense systems for intercepting the rockets over civilian neighborhoods, suggesting the falling debris caused casualties.

Russia has been pressing in the east, which it seeks to capture in full, as it continues its assault on Ukraine’s northeastern region of Kharkiv after launching a surprise offensive last month.

Ukraine recorded its highest monthly number of civilian casualties in almost one year, with the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine (HRMMU) recording a “significant increase” (31%) in civilians killed in Ukraine in May compared to April.

“Over half of the casualties in May occurred in Kharkiv city and region where Russian armed forces launched a new ground offensive on 10 May,” the head of the HRMMU Danielle Bell said.

Bell attributed the increase to Russia’s move to use “air-dropped bombs and missiles in populated areas such as communities near the frontline and Kharkiv city.”

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