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US-supplied weapons were responsible for an attack on a Russian-occupied city in Ukraine’s Kherson region that killed at least five people, officials said on Monday night.
At least five people are known to have been killed and more than 80 injured as Ukrainian forces shelled the southern city of Novaya Kakhovka.
Several buildings were destroyed including a supermarket after US-delivered Himar rocket-launchers were fired into the city centre and residential areas.
Ukraine’s military said that it had destroyed an ammunition depot which caused the explosion. But local officials said the missiles struck a fertiliser storage factory which detonated.
The Russian-appointed head of the city’s military-civilian administration Vladimir Leontyev said the devastation had left hundreds homeless.
“Tonight reminds me of the terrible analogies of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki which the United States carried out in 1945,” he said in a hysterical reference to the second world war bombings that killed over 200,000 people.
“There are already casualties among the civilian population…hundreds of people were left homeless, dozens of houses were destroyed. Hospitals continue to receive people…We are shocked by this bombardment,” Mr Leontyev added.
Russia has repeatedly bombarded and fired rockets into civilian areas of Ukrainian cities, killing over 3,000 civilians by UN estimates.
Sources said that warehouses storing saltpeter were targeted with the nearby market, hospital and residential buildings damaged in the explosion.
Mr Leontyev said Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelensky was a criminal and bore responsibility for the attack.
“When you give an order to bomb the centre of a peaceful city, this is a crime, an obvious crime that has no statute of limitations. This is a real tragedy,” he said.
Ukrainian soldier and adviser to the leader of Kherson Region Sergey Khlan said that the city’s residents would welcome the bombardment because the attack “means that the Armed Forces of Ukraine are close.”
On Sunday, Ukrainian authorities urged all residents to evacuate the Kherson region immediately ahead of a counter-offensive aimed at liberating Kherson from Russian occupation.
Deputy prime minister Iryna Vereshchuk made it clear that there would be fighting and artillery shelling in a televised address and urged women and children to leave.
An attack on an apartment block in Chasiv Yar in which 15 people were killed over the weekend prompted an angry response from Mr Zelensky.
“Punishment is inevitable for every Russian murderer,” he said.
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