Ukrainian forces blew up an ammunition dump in territory occupied by Russian troops in southern Ukraine, Ukrainian military officials and local authorities said on Sunday, in the latest in a series of recent strikes aimed at making it more difficult for Moscow to fend off Ukraine’s counteroffensive.
Serhiy Bratchuk, a spokesman for the Odesa military administration, said on the Telegram messaging app that the attack took place near the village of Rykove, in the Kherson region. He posted video footage taken from a distance that appeared to show a large fire and smoke billowing above fields.
“Our armed forces dealt a good blow in the morning, and a very loud one, in the village of Rykove,” Mr. Bratchuk wrote. There was no independent confirmation of the strike, the video has not been verified by The New York Times and there was no immediate comment from Russian authorities.
The location is significant because it is close to a bridge connecting Crimea — which was illegally annexed by Russia in 2014 — with a belt of land occupied by Russia north of the Sea of Azov. Military analysts say that one of the probable goals of the counteroffensive, which was declared by President Volodymyr Zelensky this month, is to cut that land bridge. For months, Ukrainian officials have said they have launched strikes on Russian military logistics centers, including railway depots, airfields and ammunition dumps.
Rykove is about 70 miles southeast of the west bank of the Dnipro River, an area controlled by Ukrainian forces. It was not clear how the attack took place, but that would put the village in the range of an attack by a long-range Storm Shadow missile, which Britain said in recent weeks it had donated to Ukraine. Around a year ago, Ukraine also started to use HIMARS, a rocket system given by the United States, which is also capable of hitting targets dozens of miles behind the front lines.
The counteroffensive has seen an intensification of fighting at several points along the front line in the south, but has shown little sign of a breakthrough.
Military experts say that it is likely that months of artillery duels and trench warfare lie ahead. Independent analysts say that it will be difficult for Ukrainian forces to break through heavily fortified Russian lines defended by tank traps, minefields and artillery in the southern regions of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, as well as in the eastern Donetsk region.
Dam disaster: As Ukraine pursues its counteroffensive, it continues to deal with the aftermath of an explosion on June 6 that destroyed the Kakhovka dam on the lower Dnipro River, flooding parts of the Kherson region and elsewhere and causing environmental devastation.
In all, 16 people died in the flooding and 31 others are missing, Ukraine’s Ministry of Internal Affairs said Sunday on Telegram, raising the death toll by two. The ministry said 1,300 houses remained flooded. Moscow has blamed Ukraine for the explosion, but evidence suggests that the dam, which was controlled by Russian forces, was destroyed from within. According to a pro-Russian official, Andrei Alekseyenko, 29 people died in the part of the Kherson region on the east bank of the river that Russian forces control.
NATO membership: President Biden has been facing pressure from Ukraine’s allies to hasten Ukraine’s NATO membership bid and offer a more certain path to joining the alliance, but he has not yet changed his stance. On Saturday, Mr. Biden appeared to reinforce that position, suggesting that there would be no quick route for Ukraine, which submitted an application to join the alliance last September.
“They’ve got to meet the same standards. So we’re not going to make it easy,” the president told reporters. Membership in the alliance, which would put Ukraine under NATO’s security umbrella, is viewed by Mr. Zelensky as a core strategic objective. It will probably be discussed next month at a NATO summit in Lithuania.