Russia says it launched mass strikes on Ukrainian military overnight

Moscow (Reuters) – Russia said on Monday it had launched mass strikes overnight on the Ukrainian military and associated military targets, using its air force, missile forces, artillery and air defence systems to hit hundreds of targets across its southern neighbour.

The Russian defence ministry said in a statement that air-launched missiles had destroyed 16 Ukrainian military facilities overnight, including five command posts, a fuel depot and three ammunition warehouses, as well as Ukrainian armour and forces.

It said those strikes took place in the Kharkiv, Zaporizhzhia, Donetsk and Dnipropetrovsk regions and in the port of Mykolayiv, and that the Russian air force had launched strikes against 108 areas where it said Ukrainian forces and armour were concentrated.

The defence ministry accused Ukraine of planning “monstrous provocations” with mass civilian casualties designed to cast Russian forces in a bad light.

Specifically, it said Ukraine was plotting to shell Orthodox churches and cathedrals in various Ukrainian regions on the night of April 23, the eve of Orthodox Easter which is celebrated by most Ukrainians and Russians. It said it had evidence to back its assertions but did not provide any. There was no immediate response to the allegations from Ukraine.

Ukraine’s defence ministry did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

The Russian defence ministry also spoke of destroying 12 Ukrainian strike drones and tanks in other parts of Ukraine and of using Iskander missiles to destroy four arms and equipment depots in the Luhansk, Vinnytsia and Donetsk regions.

Russia, which sent troops into Ukraine on Feb. 24, has pledged to continue what it calls “a special military operation” to degrade the Ukrainian military and root out people it calls dangerous nationalists, until it has met all its objectives.

It is currently focused on trying to take full control of the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, which has been besieged for weeks.

The defence ministry said Russian artillery had also struck 315 Ukrainian military targets overnight and that air defence systems had been used to bring down two MiG-29 fighters and one SU-25 plane.