Kyiv: Ukraine claimed to have destroyed bridges and ammunition depots and pounded command posts in a surge of fighting in the Russian-occupied south, fuelling speculation on Tuesday that its long-awaited counteroffensive to try to turn the tide of war is underway. Russia said it inflicted heavy casualties in return.
The clashes took place in Ukraine’s Kherson region, where Moscow’s forces rolled up major gains early in the war.
While independent verification of battlefield action has been difficult, Britain’s Defence Ministry said in an intelligence report that several Ukrainian brigades had stepped up their artillery fire in front-line sectors across southern Ukraine.
Ukrainian authorities kept the world guessing about their intentions, sidestepping talk of a major counteroffensive over the past couple of days.
The port city of Kherson, with a prewar population of about 300,000, is an important economic hub close to the Black Sea and the first major city to fall to the Russians in the war that began six months ago.
The US government has assessed that Moscow is preparing to stage sham referenda in areas of Ukraine under its control to manipulate the results to claim that the Ukrainian people want to join Russia, the State Department said on Tuesday-Washington time.
Polling data show that in a free referendum, Ukrainians would choose not to join Russia, department spokesman Vedant Patel said at a daily news briefing.
Occupation forces have spoken of plans to hold a referendum on making the Kherson region a part of Russia and have pressured residents to take Russian citizenship and stop using Ukraine’s currency.