An explosion hits Melitopol under Russian occupation

An explosion rocked the Russian-occupied city of Melitopol early Monday, sending plumes of smoke into the sky just outside the office of...


An explosion rocked the Russian-occupied city of Melitopol early Monday, sending plumes of smoke into the sky just outside the office of the head of the pro-Kremlin region, according to Ukrainian and Russian officials.

It was unclear who was responsible for the blast, which Ukrainian and Russian officials said appeared to target the region’s proxy leader, Yevgeny Balitsky. If Ukrainian partisans were behind the explosion, it would be one of the most brazen acts of insurrection since Russian forces occupied the southern Ukrainian city at the start of the war.

The former mayor of Melitopol, Ivan Federov, who himself was kidnapped by Russian forces and later released in a prisoner exchange before he ended up in exile, said people he was in contact with still in the city were trying to determine if anyone was injured in the attack and who might have led it.

Pro-Kremlin authorities in the city blamed Ukrainian supporters for the blast, which they said injured two people.

“This morning there was a terrorist attack aimed at destabilizing the peaceful life of the city,” Russian authorities in Melitopol said in a statement on Telegram. According to the statement, a car packed with explosives exploded in the city center at 7:40 a.m., injuring two “humanitarian aid” volunteers, a 28-year-old woman and a 25-year-old man.

“The Ukrainian government continues its war against the civilian population and the infrastructure of the cities,” the statement said, adding that an investigation was underway.

The Russian Investigative Committee, the equivalent of the FBI, also released a statement saying it would investigate the explosion, which it blamed on ‘Ukrainian saboteurs’ and which occurred during aid distribution humanitarian. He said three people were injured, including two volunteers who were hospitalized.

It was not possible to independently verify the details of the attack.

Mr Federov, the former mayor, said whoever was responsible for the blast, the attack underscored the level of local opposition that Russia would continue to face.

“The ground will burn” in Melitopol, he said, until the Russians “leave the city”.

The attack comes as the Ukrainian army is engaged in a counter-offensive to reclaim territory in the neighboring region of Kherson.

Large swathes of Kherson and Zaporizka provinces – where Melitopol is the second largest city – were taken by Russian forces early in the war. While major cities in the region have been spared the widespread devastation in population centers in northern and eastern Ukraine, the Russian occupation has become more repressive over time, according to witnesses who fled.

There are no precise estimates of the population remaining in Russian-held territory in either region, and the path to escape has become increasingly dangerous. Ukrainian officials estimate that only about half of the peacetime population remains, which could mean more than a million people.

As reports mount of Russian soldiers kidnapping of local officials and other potential threats to the Russian occupation, there has been a corresponding increase in reports of partisan violence.

Serhii Kuzan, head of the Ukrainian Center for Security and Cooperation, specializing in military analysis, told Radio Liberty Friday that the resistance movement in the occupied territories had grown and, although largely autonomous, was supported by the state.

“It all started with hundreds of informants. Now it’s thousands and thousands of people in every area performing a completely different range of actions, from informing our defense forces about the movement of enemy equipment, enemy personnel, including the leadership, patrol movement and more,” he said.

He said the partisans attacked Russian warehouses and Russian patrols and targeted “senior leaders of the occupation forces, even the general staff as well, and of course the collaborators”.

These claims were impossible to independently verify.

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Newsrust - US Top News: An explosion hits Melitopol under Russian occupation
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