Flood evacuees fleeing to Kherson killed and wounded by Russian forces

Three people were killed and 10 wounded when Russian forces shelled a boat carrying evacuees from flooded occupied territory to the Ukrainian-controlled city of Kherson, Reuters has just reported.

It isn’t clear whether this is the same boat in which six civilians were wounded that I referred to in my previous post.

Key events

Julian Borger

Julian Borger

There are signs of some Ukrainian momentum on at least one point on the front line, on the western end of Donetsk region, south of the town of Velyka Novosilka. Two villages were officially reported liberated earlier on Sunday, Blahodatne, and Neskutchne. They were the first settlements officially confirmed liberated since the start of the counteroffensive a week ago.

This evening, the deputy defence minister, Hanna Maliar, said a third village had fallen to the advancing Ukrainian forces, Makarivka, a couple of kilometres to the south.

“In the areas where our troops are on the defensive, no position was lost,” Maliar added on the Telegram messaging app.

Makarivka is believed to have been taken on Sunday morning.

“By the way, we didn’t move our main forces yet,” a Ukrainian officer texted from the southern front. “So there are grounds to believe in the best.”

The advance south from Velyka Novosilka represents the most significant gains of the counteroffensive to date, but the Ukrainian forces still have some way to go before they even reach the Russian’s main fortified defensive line.

My colleague Julian Borger is in Kyiv and is reporting on Ukraine’s counteroffensive.

Ukraine’s armed forces have claimed to have liberated two frontline villages in western Donetsk, he writes, almost a week after the launch of counteroffensive operations.

Soldiers were shown in video footage raising the Ukrainian flag over the village of Blahodatne, south of the town of Velyka Novosilka, one of the main axes of the counteroffensive so far. Troops from another brigade filmed themselves with their unit’s banner in Neskuchne.

You can read his full report here

Closing summary

The time in Kyiv is coming up to 8.30pm. Here’s a roundup of today’s news about Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Three civilians have been killed and ten others people wounded after Russian forces opened fire on a boat carrying flood evacuees to the Ukrainian-controlled city of Kherson.

A 74-year-old man used his body to shield a woman from Russian fire and was hit in the back, Reuters reports. Two of the ten people wounded were law enforcement officers.

Russia and Ukraine have simultaneously swapped nearly 100 prisoners each. The Ukrainian prisoners included members of the national guard and border guards who had been in action in several places, including near the city of Mariupol and the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.

Russia’s defence ministry said Ukraine had made an unsuccessful attempt to attack a vessel of its Black Sea fleet which was protecting natural gas pipelines. The ship was monitoring the situation along Turkstream and Blue Stream pipelines route in the Black Sea, the ministry said.

The Kremlin has also said there was no foundation for talks with Ukraine. ‘There is practically no precondition for an agreement at the moment. Moreover, there is no foundation, even flimsy, for any kind of dialogue’, the Kremlin’s spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, told Rossiya state television.

In other key developments:

  • Russian air defence systems have shot down a Ukrainian missile near the Russian-controlled port city of Berdyansk on the Sea of Azov, the TASS news agency reported.

  • Ukrainian troops said they had recaptured a village from Russian forces in the south-east, the first liberated settlement they have claimed since launching a counterattack this week. The settlement was identified as Blahodatne in Donetsk region in an unverified video. “We’re seeing the first results of the counter-offensive actions, localised results,” Valeryi Shershen, spokesperson for Ukraine’s “Tavria” military sector, said on television.

Ukrainian soldiers stand in front of a building flying a Ukrainian flag during an operation that claims to have liberate the first village of their counteroffensive
Ukrainian soldiers stand in front of a building flying a Ukrainian flag during an operation that claims to have liberate the first village of their counteroffensive. Photograph: Reuters
  • Russia’s defence ministry said its forces had shot down a Ukrainian Su-25 fighter jet in Kherson region, where the breach of the Kakhovka dam on Tuesday led to major flooding. Russian forces also repelled three Ukrainian attacks in Zaporizhzhia region, the ministry said.

  • Russia’s most powerful mercenary said on Sunday that his Wagner fighters would not sign any contracts with the Russian defence ministry, hours after the minister, Sergei Shoigu, sought to bring volunteer detachments under its sway. In response to a request for comment, Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder of the Wagner group, said: “Wagner will not sign any contracts with Shoigu,,” adding that the minister “cannot properly manage military formations.” Wagner was integrated into the overall system and completely subordinate to the interests of Russia, he said, but its command structure would be damaged by reporting to Shoigu.

  • Kyiv’s deputy defence minister, Hanna Maliar, said Russian forces blew up the Khakhovka dam to prevent Ukrainian troops from launching an offensive and advancing in the southern Kherson region. She said the action was also intended to help Russia deploy reserves to the Zaporizhzhia and Bakhmut areas.

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A 60 year-old man in the partially flooded town of Kherson
A 60 year-old man in the partially flooded town of Kherson. Photograph: Genya Savilov/AFP/Getty Images
  • Russia’s defence minister awarded medals to soldiers on Sunday after Moscow said its forces had destroyed four German-made Leopard tanks and five US-made Bradley fighting vehicles while repelling a Ukrainian counteroffensive. Sergei Shoigu was shown on state television awarding the Hero of Russia gold star, Russia’s highest military honour, to soldiers who said they had destroyed enemy tanks and armoured vehicles.

  • Two drones crashed early on Sunday in Russia’s Kaluga region – one near the village of Strelkovka, another in the woods in the Medynsky municipal district, according to the governor of the region, Vladislav Shapsha. There were no casualties and only minimal damage, Shapsha said on Telegram.

  • A US musician was arrested in Moscow accused of selling mephedrone. Russian news media reported on Saturday that a US musician, Michael Travis Leake, who has lived in Russia for more than a decade had been arrested on suspicion of drug trafficking, according to the Associated Press.

That’s it from me, Donna Ferguson, and the Ukraine Live blog. Thanks for following along. If you want to read more news about Ukraine, you can do so here.

The Ukrainian prisoners that Russia has just released included members of the national guard and border guards, Reuters reports.

The head of Ukraine’s presidential administration, Andriy Yermak, said those released had been in action in several places, including near the city of Mariupol and the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.

More details have emerged about the Russian attack on a boat carrying flood evacuees.

“Three civilians died, ten more were wounded, including two law enforcement officers,” the governor of Kherson region, Oleksandr Prokudin, said.

In a statement on Telegram, he said a 74-year-old man used his body to shield a woman from Russian fire and was hit in the back and died.

Russia and Ukraine each return nearly 100 prisoners

Russia and Ukraine have both simultaneously announced the return of nearly 100 soldiers from each side.

The TASS news agency quoted Russia’s defence ministry as saying that 94 Russians in Ukrainian captivity had been released and would be taken to a medical institution to be examined.

The head of Ukraine’s presidential administration, Andriy Yermak, said that 95 Ukrainian service members had been returned, including some wounded, according to Reuters.

Flood evacuees fleeing to Kherson killed and wounded by Russian forces

Three people were killed and 10 wounded when Russian forces shelled a boat carrying evacuees from flooded occupied territory to the Ukrainian-controlled city of Kherson, Reuters has just reported.

It isn’t clear whether this is the same boat in which six civilians were wounded that I referred to in my previous post.

Six civilians were wounded on Sunday when Russian forces opened fire on a boat being used to evacuate civilians, Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s chief of staff has said.

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The civilians were fleeing from flooded, occupied territory to the Ukrainian-controlled city of Kherson, Reuters reported.

The area they were in experienced severe flooding after the destruction of the Nova Kakhovka dam, which both Kyiv and Moscow have accused each other of deliberately blowing up.

“The Russian army attacked a boat with civilians evacuating from the left bank of Kherson region,” Andriy Yermak wrote on Telegram.

“They opened fire at the backs of civilians. Six people were wounded. They arrived in Kherson and were taken to hospital … Doctors are fighting for the lives of the wounded,” he wrote.

Russian air defence systems have shot down a Ukrainian missile near the Russian-controlled port city of Berdyansk on the Sea of Azov, the TASS news agency has reported.

Ukrainian troops said on Sunday they had recaptured a village from Russian forces in the south-east, the first liberated settlement they have claimed since launching a counterattack this week.

Soldiers hoisted the Ukrainian flag at a bombed-out building in an unverified video published by Ukraine’s 68th Jaeger Brigade, which identified the settlement as Blahodatne in Donetsk region, Reuters reported.

“We’re seeing the first results of the counter-offensive actions, localised results,” Valeryi Shershen, spokesperson for Ukraine’s “Tavria” military sector, said on television.

He said the village lay on the edge of the Donetsk and Zaporizhzia regions a few kilometres south of the Kyiv-controlled village of Velyka Novosilka.

Ukrainian soldiers stand in front of a building with a Ukrainian flag on it in a location given as Blahodatne, Donetsk region.

Ukrainian soldiers stand in front of a building with a Ukrainian flag on it, during an operation that claims to liberate the first village amid a counter-offensive, in a location given as Blahodatne, Donetsk Region, Ukraine, in this screengrab taken from a handout video released on 11 June 2023.
Ukrainian soldiers stand in front of a building with a Ukrainian flag on it, during an operation that claims to liberate the first village amid a counter-offensive, in a location given as Blahodatne, Donetsk Region, Ukraine, in this screengrab taken from a handout video released on 11 June 2023. Photograph: 68TH SEPARATE HUNTING BRIGADE ’OLEKSY DOVBUSHA’/Reuters

Russia’s defence ministry said on Sunday that its forces had shot down a Ukrainian Su-25 fighter jet in Kherson region, where the breach of the Kakhovka dam on Tuesday led to major flooding.

Russian forces also repelled three Ukrainian attacks in Zaporizhzhia region, the ministry said.

Reuters was unable to immediately verify the reports.

Ukraine ‘tried to attack Russian vessel near gas pipelines in Black Sea’

Russia’s defence ministry said on Sunday that Ukraine had made an unsuccessful attempt to attack a vessel of Russia’s Black Sea fleet which was protecting natural gas pipelines.

The ship was monitoring the situation along Turkstream and Blue Stream pipelines route in the Black Sea, the ministry said.

Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Saturday that counteroffensive and defensive operations were taking place in Ukraine, but would not say what stage they were at.

“It’s interesting what Putin said about our counteroffensive. It is important that Russia always feels this: that they do not have long left, in my opinion,” the Ukrainian president added.

Zelenskiy’s comments came after Vladimir Putin claimed that Kyiv’s long-expected counteroffensive was already failing.

Zelenskiy says counteroffensive actions under way in Ukraine – video

Russia’s most powerful mercenary said on Sunday that his Wagner fighters would not sign any contracts with the Russian defence ministry, hours after the minister, Sergei Shoigu, sought to bring volunteer detachments under its sway.

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder of the Wagner group, has repeatedly attacked Vladimir Putin’s militaryleaders for what he casts as treachery for failing to fight the war in Ukraine properly.

Neither Shoigu nor the chief of the general staff Valery Gerasimov have commented in public on Prigozhin’s insults and criticism, Reuters reported.

But the defence ministry said on Saturday that Shoigu had ordered all volunteer detachments to sign contracts with his ministry by the end of the month, a step the ministry said would increase the effectiveness of the Russian army.

The ministry did not mention Wagner in its statement, but Russian media reported that it was an attempt by Shoigu to bring the mercenaries to heel.

“Wagner will not sign any contracts with Shoigu,” Prigozhin said in response to a request for comment.

He said Wagner was integrated into the overall system and completely subordinate to the interests of Russia, but that its highly efficient command structure would be damaged by reporting to Shoigu.

“Shoigu cannot properly manage military formations,” he said, adding that Wagner coordinated its actions in Ukraine with general Sergei Surovikin, nicknamed “General Armageddon” by the Russian media.


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