NIKOPOL, Ukraine — Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which hits the half-year mark this week, has already killed some 9,000 Ukrainian soldiers, a general said, and the fighting Monday showed no signs that the war is abating.
At a veteran’s event, Ukraine’s military chief, Gen. Valerii Zaluzhnyi, said Ukraine’s children need to be taken care of because “their father went to the front line and, perhaps, is one of those almost 9,000 heroes who died.”
In Nikopol, across the river from Ukraine’s main nuclear power plant, Russian shelling wounded four people Monday, an official said. The city on the Dnieper River has faced relentless pounding since July 12 that has damaged some 850 buildings and sent about half its population of 100,000 fleeing.
The U.N. says 5,587 civilians have been killed and 7,890 injured in the Russian invasion of Ukraine that began on Feb. 24, although the estimate is likely conservative.
“I feel hate towards Russians,” said 74-year-old Liudmyla Shyshkina, standing on the edge of her destroyed fourth-floor apartment in Nikopol that no longer has walls. She is still injured from the Aug. 10 blast that killed her 81-year-old husband, Anatoliy, on the spot.
“The Second World War didn’t take away my father, but the Russian world did,” noted Pavlo Shyshkin, his son.
U.S. President Joe Biden and the leaders of Britain, France and Germany had pleaded Sunday for Russia to end any military operation so close to the Zaporizhzhya nuclear plant — Europe’s largest — but Nikopol came under fire three times overnight from rockets and mortar shells. Houses, a kindergarten, a bus station and stores were hit, authorities said.
There are widespread fears that continued shelling and fighting in the area could lead to a nuclear catastrophe. Russia has asked for an urgent meeting of the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday to discuss the situation around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.
Vladimir Rogov, an official with the Russia-installed administration of the Zaporizhzhia region, said Monday that because of the shelling, staffing at the nuclear plant has been cut, with only skeletal personnel remaining to maintain its operation.
Monday’s announcement of the scope of Ukraine’s military dead stands in contrast to Russia’s military, which last gave an update on March 25 when it said 1,351 Russian troops were killed during the first month of fighting. U.S. military officials estimated two weeks ago that Russia has lost between 70,000 to 80,000 soldiers, both killed and wounded in action.
On Monday though, Moscow turned its attention to one civilian death specifically.
Russia blamed Ukrainian spy agencies for the car bombing on the outskirts of Moscow over the weekend that killed the daughter of a far-right Russian nationalist and ardent supporter of the invasion of Ukraine.
Russia’s Federal Security Service, the main successor to the KGB, said Monday the killing was “prepared and perpetrated by the Ukrainian special services.” It charged that the bombing that killed 29-year-old TV commentator Darya Dugina, whose father, political theorist Alexander Dugin, is often referred to as “Putin’s brain,” was carried out by a Ukrainian citizen who left Russia for Estonia afterward.
Ukrainian officials have vehemently denied any involvement in the car bombing.
On the frontline, the Ukraine military said it carried out a strike on a key bridge over the Dnieper River in the Russian-occupied Kherson region. Local Russia-installed officials said it killed two people on Monday and wounded 16 others.
Photos posted on social media showed thick plumes of smoke rising over the Antonivskiy Bridge, which has been a key supply route for the Russian military in Kherson.
On the Russian-occupied Crimean Peninsula, anxiety has spread following a spate of fires and explosions at Russian facilities over the past two weeks. The Russian-backed governor of Sevastopol, Mikhail Razvozhaev, ordered that signs showing the location of bomb shelters be placed in the city, which had long seemed untouchable.
Sevastopol, the Crimean port that is the home of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, has seen a series of drone attacks. A drone exploded at the fleet’s headquarters on July 31, and another was shot down over it last week. Authorities said air-defense systems have shot down other drones as well.
Razvozhaev said on Telegram that the city is well-protected but “it is better to know where the shelters are.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin didn’t directly mention the war during a speech marking National Flag Day on Monday but echoed some of the justifications cited for the invasion.
“We are firm in pursuing in the international arena only those policies that meet the fundamental interests of the motherland,” Putin said. He maintains that Russia sent troops into Ukraine to protect it against the encroaching West.
Follow the AP’s coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine