© Reuters. A view of the damage after the shelling of a private residential complex, in Mykolaiv, Ukraine, on August 29, 2022 in this image obtained from social media. SES Ukraine/via REUTERS
By Andrea Shalal and Max Hunder
MYKOLAIV, Ukraine/KIEV (Reuters) – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urged Russian troops to flee an offensive launched by his forces near the southern city of Kherson, saying the Ukrainian military was retaking their territory, even as Russia said the attack had failed. .
Ukraine’s attack comes after weeks of stalling in a war that has killed thousands, displaced millions, destroyed cities and sparked a global energy and food crisis amid unprecedented economic sanctions.
It also raised concerns about a radiation disaster caused by shelling near the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine.
Zelensky, in his late-night address on Monday, promised that Ukrainian troops would push the Russian army “to the border.”
“If they want to survive – it’s time for the Russian army to flee. Go home,” he said.
“Ukraine is returning its own,” Zelensky said.
Oleksiy Arestovich, a senior adviser to Zelenskiy, said that Russian defenses were “breached in a few hours”.
Ukrainian forces shelled ferries used by Russia to supply a pocket of territory on the west bank of the Dnieper River in the Kherson region, he added.
The Russian Ministry of Defense announced that Ukrainian troops attempted an offensive in Mykolaiv and Kherson regions, but suffered significant casualties, RIA reported.
“An enemy offensive attempt has miserably failed,” it said.
But a Ukrainian rocket barrage left the Russian-occupied town of Nova Kahovka without water and electricity, Russian government officials told the RIA news agency.
Reuters could not verify reports from the battlefield.
Russian shelling of the port city of Mykolaiv, which remained in Ukrainian hands despite repeated Russian bombardment, killed at least two people, wounded about 24, and destroyed houses, city officials and witnesses said Monday.
A Reuters correspondent reported that the strike hit a family home right next to the school, killing a woman.
The owner of the property, Olexandr Shulga, said he had lived there all his life and that his wife died when she was buried in the rubble. “It hit and the shock wave came. It destroyed everything,” he said.
Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24 to carry out what it says is a “special military operation” to rid Ukraine of nationalists and protect Russian-speaking communities. Ukraine and its allies describe it as an unprovoked war of aggression.
The conflict, the biggest attack on a European state since 1945, has largely turned into a war of attrition, mostly in the south and east, marked by artillery bombardment and air raids. Russia occupied parts of the south early on.
Ukraine’s Southern Command said its troops had launched offensive actions in several directions, including in the Kherson region north of the Crimean peninsula, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014.
Ukraine has struck more than 10 locations in the past week and “unquestionably weakened the enemy,” according to a spokeswoman who declined to give details of the offensive, saying Russian forces in the south remained “quite powerful.”
IAEA NUCLEAR MISSION
The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine, seized by Russian troops in March but still staffed by Ukrainians, has been a flashpoint in the conflict with both sides swapping blame for shelling nearby.
The mission of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) went to the facility, the largest nuclear power plant in Europe, and should carry out an inspection and assessment of possible damage later this week.
Led by IAEA chief Rafael Grossi, the mission will assess operating conditions and check safety and security systems, the Vienna-based organization said.
It will also “perform emergency safeguards activities,” which refers to the monitoring of nuclear material.
A senior Russian diplomat said Moscow hoped the mission would dispel misconceptions about the plant’s alleged poor condition.
The Kremlin said the IAEA mission was “necessary” and called on the international community to pressure Ukraine to reduce military tensions at the plant. The mission must perform its work in a politically neutral manner, the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
The United Nations, the United States and Ukraine have called for the withdrawal of military equipment and personnel from the compound to ensure it is not a target.
“We continue to believe that a controlled shutdown of the Zaporozhye nuclear reactors would be the safest and least risky option in the near term,” said White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby (NYSE: ).
But the Kremlin again ruled out leaving the site.