Ukraine’s civilian death toll mounts as Russia strikes Kherson

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Russia’s invading forces shelled two villages in Ukraine’s Kherson region on Sunday, killing at least seven people including a newborn baby, Ukrainian officials have said.

The attack comes on the same day Russia’s navy fired a warning shot on a commercial vessel approaching a Ukrainian Black Sea port.

“The enemy continues to bombard the Kherson region,” Andriy Yermak, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s chief of staff, said in a statement.

The strikes had targeted the villages of Stanislav and Shyroka Balka, located on the Dnipro river’s delta south-west of Kherson city, he added.

“A husband, his wife and their daughter — who was only 23 days old — died as a result of enemy artillery shelling,” said Ihor Klymenko, Ukraine’s minister of interior affairs. Hours later, he said the couple’s 12-year-old son had also died.

“The terrorists will never stop killing civilians voluntarily . . . the terrorists must be stopped, by force,” Klymenko said. “They do not understand anything else,” he added.

Ukraine’s general prosecutor’s office said on Sunday it had launched an investigation into the Kherson region shelling as a “violation of the laws and customs of war, combined with intentional murder”.

Since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 the civilian impact has been brutal, with Ukrainian officials estimating nearly 10,000 civilians have been killed so far, including 500 children. The Russian military’s strikes have also injured more than 16,000 people and destroyed 120,000 residential buildings.

Also on Sunday, a Russian warship fired warning shots and conducted a forced inspection of a Palau-flagged commercial cargo vessel heading to Ukraine’s port of Izmail, located on the Danube river delta that borders Nato member Romania.

“To force the vessel to stop, the Russian warship fired warning shots with automatic small arms,” Russia’s defence ministry said, adding that the vessel was allowed to proceed after being inspected.

The incident comes days after Ukraine unilaterally announced a reopening of corridors for merchant vessels in a bid to break Russia’s naval blockade of its ports.

Moscow earlier this summer withdrew from a UN-brokered agreement allowing passage of vessels carrying food and has threatened to treat commercial vessels heading to Ukraine’s ports as military targets.

Separately, Oleksandr Tarnavsky, commander of Ukraine’s southern forces, said on Telegram on Saturday that new territory had been freed from Russian forces.

Ukraine’s military often takes days or longer to confirm gains made to the public. But Ukrainian and Russian military bloggers said Ukraine’s armed forces had liberated the village of Urozhayne in the southern Donetsk region, following a grinding, weeks-long push. Reports also suggest Ukrainian forces are close to freeing the village of Robotyne in the southern Zaporizhzhia region.

Analysts say Ukraine’s southern push is part of a counteroffensive strategy that aims to sever Russia’s land bridge linking it with Crimea, the peninsula that Moscow annexed in 2014 and has since used as a military staging ground.

Sergei Asksyonov, Russia’s installed leader in Crimea, said on Saturday that air defences had intercepted several Ukrainian missiles in the latest attack on the Crimean bridge. “The Crimean bridge was not damaged. Please keep calm and trust only official sources of information,” he added.

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