MOSCOW — The Russian military said it destroyed numerous weapons supplied by the United States and other NATO countries, including an advanced rocket system, in fresh attacks on Ukrainian positions on Sunday.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said on Sunday that a depot in the Black Sea port of Odessa that stored Harpoon anti-ship missiles was hit, while a rocket launcher system multiple HIMARS supplied by the United States had been hit in the eastern Donetsk region.
Military analysts say locating and destroying a HIMARS system is a difficult task and it has not been possible to independently confirm Moscow’s claims.
Ukraine has repeatedly used Harpoon missiles against the Russian Navy in the Black Sea.
In the northeast region of Kharkiv, Konashenkov said Russian forces shot down a Sukhoi Su-25 fighter jet using a ground-based defense system, as well as an Mi-17 attack helicopter and a fighter jet in Donetsk.
Earlier on Sunday, the Ukrainian General Staff in Kyiv reported increased shelling in Donetsk which affected dozens of communities but was mainly directed at the towns of Siversk and Bakhmut.
After capturing the Luhansk region earlier this month, Russia focused its efforts on capturing the neighboring Donetsk region from Ukrainian forces. Luhansk and Donetsk comprise the industrialized eastern region known as Donbass, control of which is a key objective for Moscow.
The head of Ukraine’s military administration for the Luhansk region, Serhii Haidai, again on Sunday disputed claims that Luhansk was not entirely in Russian hands, pointing out that Ukraine still had two villages under its control.
Kyiv region police chief Andriy Nebytov said some 1,346 civilians had been found dead since the withdrawal of Russian troops from around the capital.
Russia attempted to occupy kyiv at the start of its invasion of Ukraine in February, but was forced to withdraw due to surprisingly strong Ukrainian resistance.
However, after the Russian withdrawal, the Ukrainian police found murdered civilians in all the briefly occupied areas. The numbers are not yet final, Nebytov pointed out, as around 300 people are still missing.
According to British intelligence, Moscow is taking the threat posed by Ukrainian counter-offensives to its own troops seriously.
Russia was strengthening its defensive positions in southern Ukraine, the Ministry of Defense London’s Daily Ukraine Intelligence Update said on Sunday.
“This includes the movement of manpower, equipment and defensive stores between Mariupol and Zaporizhzhya, and in Kherson,” he said.
Russian forces have also tightened security measures in the occupied city of Melitopol, according to the update.
“Given the pressures on Russian manpower, the strengthening of the South as the struggle for Donbass continues probably indicates the seriousness with which Russian commanders view the threat.”
Meanwhile, in a rare move since the Russian invasion began, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy sacked two key figures in the country’s security apparatus on Sunday.
According to the decrees issued by Zelenskyy’s office, the head of the SBU security agency Ivan Bakanov and the prosecutor general Iryna Venediktova lost their posts.
Zelenskyy explained the decision in his daily video address on Sunday, saying that more than 60 employees of the two authorities remained in Russian-occupied territories and collaborated with the enemy there.
Since Russia began its invasion of Ukraine on February 24, Zelenskyy has rarely replaced senior officials. However, he said that there are currently 651 criminal cases against employees of the prosecution and other law enforcement agencies for high treason and collaboration with Russian services.
This “series of crimes against the foundations of national security” raises serious questions for the heads of the responsible authorities, the president said. He confirmed that a senior SBU official, formerly in charge of the Black Sea peninsula in Crimea, had been arrested.
Venediktova is to be replaced by Oleksiy Simonenko, while it is unclear who will succeed secret service chief Bakanov, a close friend of Zelenskyy from his time as a TV comedian who has led the SBU since 2019.