Ukraine says it has struck a base used by the shadowy Wagner Russian paramilitary group as well as a bridge near the occupied city of Melitopol.
Serhiy Haidai, the governor of the Luhansk region in eastern Ukraine, said the base was “destroyed by a precision strike” after its whereabouts were established “thanks to a Russian journalist”.
The Ukrainian news website Ukrainska Pravda reported that a Kremlin military correspondent had visited the mercenary headquarters on 8 August and posted a photograph on Telegram showing a nearby address.
The paramilitary group has been linked by western intelligence agencies to the Russian oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin, who is a close associate of Vladimir Putin. Prigozhin was reported to have been at the base days before the Ukrainian strike.
The presence of Wagner paramilitaries has been documented in Libya, Mali and Syria, among many other countries – particularly in Africa.
Ukrainian authorities said saboteurs had blown up a railway bridge south-west of the city of Melitopol, which is held by Russian troops. Melitopol’s mayor, Ivan Fyodorov said on Telegram the strike meant there would be “a complete absence of military trains from Crimea”.
The Crimean peninsula, which was annexed by Russia in 2014, is an essential base for supplying Russian troops deployed in southern Ukraine. Ukraine has said it is waging a counteroffensive in the south of the country, recapturing dozens of villages and threatening to push Russian troops to the other bank of the Dnieper River.
Meanwhile in Odesa on the Black Sea, three people were killed while swimming due to the detonation of “an unidentified explosive device”, said Sergiy Brachuk, a spokesperson for the local authorities.
Officials have warned beachgoers not to enter the sea because of the presence of unexploded mines.
Earlier on Monday, Russian shelling of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-biggest city, killed at least one person and injured six more, a senior police official, Sergiy Bolvinov, said on Facebook.