Ukraine's military on Sunday reported recapturing a southeastern village as Russian forces claimed to repel multiple attacks in the area.
The battlefield showdown in the southeast and chaotic scenes from inundated southern Ukraine marked the latest upheaval and bloodshed in Russia's war in Ukraine, now in its 16th month.
Oleksandr Prokudin, governor of the Kherson region, said on his Telegram account that a 74-year-old man who tried to protect a woman was among those who died in the attack on evacuees, which wounded another 10.
An Associated Press team on site saw three ambulances drop off injured evacuees at a hospital, one of whom was splattered with blood and whisked by stretcher into the emergency room.
The Kherson region straddles the Dnieper River and has suffered heavy flooding since last week's breach of a dam that Ukraine and Russia accuse each other of causing. Russian forces occupy parts of the region on the eastern side of the river.
Many civilians have said Russian authorities in occupied areas were forcing would-be evacuees to present Russian passports before taking them to safety. Since then, many small boats have shuttled from Ukrainian-held areas on the west bank across the river to rescue desperate civilians stuck on rooftops, in attics and on other islands of dry amid the deluge.
To the northeast, nearly halfway up the more than 1,000-kilometre (600-mile) front line, Ukrainian forces said they drove out Russian fighters from the village of Blahodatne, in the partially occupied Donetsk region. Ukraine's 68th Separate Hunting Brigade posted a video on Facebook that showed soldiers installing a Ukrainian flag on a damaged building in the village.
Myroslav Semeniuk, the spokesman for the brigade, told The Associated Press that an assault team captured six Russian troops after entering several buildings where some 60 soldiers were holed up. “The enemy keeps shelling us but this won’t stop us,” Semeniuk said. “The next village we plan to reclaim is Urozhayne. After that, (we’ll proceed) further south.”
Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said Ukrainian troops in the area had advanced up to 1.5 kilometres and had taken control of another village, Makarivka.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Saturday that Ukrainian counteroffensive actions were underway. But while the recapture of Blahodatne pointed to a small Ukrainian advance, Western and Ukrainian leaders have repeatedly cautioned that efforts to expel Russian troops more broadly are expected to take time. Russia has made much of how its troops have held their ground elsewhere.
The Russian Defense Ministry on Sunday continued to insist that it was repelling Ukrainian attacks in the area. It said in a statement that Ukrainian attempts at offensive operations on the southern Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia axes of the frontline over the past 24 hours had been “unsuccessful.”
Vladimir Rogov, a Russian-installed official in the Zaporizhzhia region, insisted that Blahodatne and two other villages in the region were in a “grey area” in terms of who controls them. However, Rogov said in a Telegram post that Russian fighters had been forced to leave the village of Neskuchne in the Donetsk region. In a video, fighters identifying themselves as members of a Ukrainian volunteer force claimed to have taken the village.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has asserted that Ukraine’s counteroffensive had started, and said Ukrainian forces were taking “significant losses.”