Nikopol, Ukraine (AP) — Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has already killed about 9,000 Ukrainian soldiers since it began nearly six months ago, a general said, and Monday’s fighting showed no signs of abating.
At the veteran event, the commander-in-chief of Ukrainian forces, General Valery Zaluzhny, said that many children in Ukraine need to be taken care of because “their father went to the front line and may be one of the nearly 9,000 heroes who died.”
In Nikopol, on the other side of the river from Ukraine’s main nuclear power plant, Russian shelling wounded four people on Monday, an official said. The Dnieper city has faced relentless strikes since July 12, damaging 850 buildings and displacing about half its population of 100,000.
“I feel hatred for Russians,” said Lyudmila Shishkina, 74, standing at the edge of her destroyed fourth-floor apartment in Nikopol, which no longer has walls. She is still injured in the August 10 explosion that killed her 81-year-old husband, Anatoly.
“The Second World War did not take my father, but the Russian one,” his son Paulo Shishkin noted.
The UN reports that 5,587 civilians have been killed and 7,890 wounded in the Russian invasion of Ukraine since February 24, although the estimate is likely to be an underestimate. The UN children’s agency said on Monday that at least 972 Ukrainian children have been killed or injured since the Russian invasion. UNICEF executive director Kathryn Russell said the figures had been verified by the UN, but “we believe the number is much higher”.
US President Joe Biden and the leaders of Great Britain, France and Germany on Sunday asked Russia to stop military operations so close to the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant – Europe’s largest – but Nikopol was hit by rockets and mortars three times overnight. Houses, a kindergarten, a bus station and shops were damaged, the authorities said.
There are widespread fears that continued shelling and fighting in the area could lead to a nuclear disaster. Russia asked for an urgent meeting of the UN Security Council to be convened on Tuesday to discuss the situation – “insolence”, which Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky condemned in his evening video message.
“The total number of various Russian cruise missiles that Russia used against us is close to 3,500. The blows of Russian artillery are simply impossible to count; there are so many of them, and they are so intense,” Zelensky said on Monday.
Western countries have already scheduled a council meeting on Wednesday – the six-month anniversary of the Russian invasion – about its impact on Ukraine.
The official representative of the administration of the occupied Zaporozhye region established by Russia, Vladimir Rohov, claimed that due to shelling from Ukraine, the staff at the nuclear power plant was drastically reduced. Ukrainians say that Russia keeps weapons at the nuclear power plant and has blocked off the territory for Ukrainian nuclear engineers.
The toll of Ukrainian military casualties released Monday is in stark contrast to the Russian military, which last reported on March 25, when it said 1,351 Russian soldiers had died in the first month of fighting. US military officials estimated two weeks ago that Russia had lost between 70,000 and 80,000 soldiers, both killed and wounded in action.
However, on Monday, Moscow drew attention to one specific civilian death.
Russia was blamed Ukrainian special services over the weekend, a car bomb on the outskirts of Moscow killed the daughter of a far-right Russian nationalist who strongly supports the invasion of Ukraine.
Russia’s Federal Security Service, the main successor to the KGB, said on Monday that the assassination was “prepared and carried out by Ukrainian special services.” The blast that killed 29-year-old TV commentator Daria Dugin, whose father, political theorist Alexander Dugin, often referred to as “Putin’s brain”, was accused of being carried out by a Ukrainian citizen who left Russia for Estonia.
Ukrainian officials categorically deny their involvement in the car explosion. Estonian officials say Russia did not ask them to look for the suspected bomber or even talk to them about the blast.
On the front line, the Ukrainian military said it struck a key bridge across the Dnieper River in the Russian-occupied Kherson region. Local Russian officials said Monday’s strike killed two people and wounded 16 others.
Photos on social media show thick columns of smoke rising over the Antonovsky Bridge, an important supply route for the Russian military in Kherson.
Anxiety is growing on the Russian-occupied Crimean peninsula after a series of fires and explosions at Russian facilities over the past two weeks. The governor of Sevastopol, Mikhail Razvozhaev, who is supported by Russia, ordered the installation of signs indicating the location of bomb shelters in the city, which for a long time seemed untouchable.
In Telegram, Razvozhaev said that the city is well protected, but “it’s better to know where the shelters are.”
Sevastopol, a Crimean port that is home to Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, has been hit by a series of drone attacks. On July 31, a drone exploded near the fleet headquarters, and another one was shot down over it last week. Authorities said other drones were also shot down by air defense systems.
On Monday evening, residents of Sevastopol reported on social networks that they heard loud explosions. Razvozhaev said that the air defense system shot down “an object … at a high altitude.”
“The preliminary (conclusion) is a drone again,” he wrote on Telegram.
Russian President Vladimir Putin did not directly mention the war during his Flag Day speech on Monday, but repeated some of the justifications for the invasion.
“We firmly pursue only those policies in the international arena that correspond to the fundamental interests of the motherland,” Putin said. He claims that Russia sent troops into Ukraine to protect its people from Western encroachments.
Follow AP’s war coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine