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Attacks in Russian-occupied Ukrainian regions leave 28 dead, Moscow-backed officials say

A Ukrainian serviceman jumps out of the boat onto the shore of Dnipro at the frontline near Kherson, Ukraine, Sunday, Oct. 15, 2023. (AP Photo/Alex Babenko) A Ukrainian serviceman jumps out of the boat onto the shore of Dnipro at the frontline near Kherson, Ukraine, Sunday, Oct. 15, 2023. (AP Photo/Alex Babenko)
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Kyiv, Ukraine -

Russia-installed officials in the partially-occupied Ukrainian regions of Kherson and Luhansk said Ukrainian attacks left at least 28 people dead as Russia and Ukraine continued to exchange drone attacks overnight into Saturday.

A Ukrainian attack Friday on the small town of Sadove in the Kherson region killed 22 and wounded 15 people, Moscow-appointed governor Vladimir Saldo said.

Russian state news agency Tass cited Saldo as saying that Ukrainian forces first struck the town with a French-made guided bomb, then attacked again with a U.S.-supplied HIMARS missile. He said Ukrainian forces had “deliberately made a repeat strike to create greater numbers of casualties” when “residents of nearby houses ran out to help the injured."

Officials declared Saturday a day of mourning in Luhansk, and public events will be similarly cancelled Sunday and Monday in Kherson.

Further east, Leonid Pasechnik, the Russia-installed governor in Ukraine’s partially occupied Luhansk region, said Saturday that two more bodies had been pulled from the rubble following Friday’s Ukrainian missile attack on the regional capital, also called Luhansk. Russian state news agency Interfax cited regional authorities as saying this brought the death toll to six. Pasechnik also said 60 people were wounded in the attack.

Ukraine did not comment on either assault.

Meanwhile, drone attacks between Russia and Ukraine persisted.

Ukraine launched a barrage of drones across Russian territory overnight Friday, Russia’s Defense Ministry said Saturday. Twenty-five drones were reportedly destroyed over Russia’s southern Kuban and Astrakhan regions, the western Tula region, and the Moscow-annexed Crimean peninsula.

On Saturday morning, officials said air defenses for the first time shot down Ukrainian drones over the North Ossetia region in the North Caucasus, some 900 km (560 miles) east of the front line in Ukraine’s partially occupied Zaporizhzhia region.

Russia’s Ministry of Defense said that one drone had been destroyed, whereas regional Gov. Sergei Menyailo reported three downed drones over the region. Menyailo said that the target was a military airfield.

Ukrainian air defense overnight shot down nine out of 13 Russian drones over the central Poltava region, southeastern Zaporizhzhia and Dnipropetrovsk regions, and the Kharkiv region in the northeast, Ukraine’s air force said Saturday.

Dnipropetrovsk regional Gov. Serhiy Lysak said the overnight drone attack damaged commercial and residential buildings.

Later on Saturday, a Ukrainian military spokesman said Ukraine now controlled more than half of the town of Vovchansk, a flashpoint for fighting since Russia launched a renewed offensive in Ukraine’s northeastern Kharkiv region last month.

“Most of the city is under the control of the defense forces,” Nazar Voloshin, spokesman for the Khortytsia ground forces formation, said on Ukrainian state TV.

It wasn't immediately possible to independently confirm the claim.

Russia’s Kharkiv push appears to be a coordinated new offensive that includes testing Ukrainian defenses in the Donetsk region further south, while also launching incursions in the northern Sumy and Chernihiv regions.

Also on Saturday, Ukrainian officials said there was an attempt on the life of the ex-mayor of Kupiansk, a city in Ukraine’s northeastern Kharkiv region, on Friday.

The Main Intelligence Directorate of Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense said Hennadiy Matsehora was in “critical condition” after he was attacked in Russia’s Belgorod region, bordering Ukraine.

Officials said he “voluntarily agreed to full cooperation” when Russian troops invaded and in June 2022 “signed the so-called protocol for the creation of the occupation Kharkiv administration.”

After the Ukrainian Armed Forces took back control of Kupiansk, Matsehora had “escaped with the Russians to the Belgorod region,” Ukrainian intelligence said.

The statement by the directorate on social messaging app Telegram labeled the ex-mayor a “traitor."

Morton reported from London.

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