KYIV, Ukraine — The pressure on Russian forces in southern Ukraine deepened over the weekend as Ukrainian forces conducted strikes on Russian military strongholds, targeted sites used by local officials loyal to the Kremlin and continued to hit the supply lines for thousands of Russian soldiers on the western bank of the Dnipro River.
A missile strike in the Russian-controlled southern Ukrainian city of Kherson leveled a cotton mill that was used as a Russian base, Ukrainian officials said on Sunday, after taking credit for an attack on a courthouse downtown that served as a headquarters for the Kremlin-backed military administration.
Another challenge to Russia’s claim that it has full control of the city came late Saturday, when a firefight broke out in the streets of the city and continued overnight, according to video released by Russian military bloggers. Kherson remains the only regional capital in Ukraine captured by Moscow since the invasion.
It was unclear who was involved in the fighting. Local Russian authorities spoke of a raid targeting Ukrainian guerrilla fighters. The Ukrainian military had no official statement, but officials suggested it was possibly factional fighting among those on Moscow’s side.
Mykhailo Podolyak, a top adviser to the Ukrainian president, said that firefight was an internal struggle between Russians looking to “divide the loot” before they “flee.”
Ukraine has been pushing a counteroffensive in the south for weeks, trying to wear down Russian fighters and force their surrender or retreat.
But unlike in the northeast, where the Russian lines were thinly spread and quickly overwhelmed by Ukraine’s lightning assault, Russian forces in the south have spent weeks preparing for an expected Ukrainian advance and have fortified their positions.
Despite the increasing pressure, there was no indication of any mass Russian withdrawal, and Russian forces have continued to assault Ukrainian positions and pound Ukrainian towns and villages.
The city of Kherson and the surrounding region are the only land held by Russia west of the Dnipro river. Ukraine has been blowing up Russian ammunition dumps and command posts and hitting river crossings and supply lines with precision missile strikes, seeking to isolate the estimated 25,000 Russians on the Dnipro’s west bank.
The Ukrainian military intelligence agency said that four explosions that destroyed the mill on Saturday were the result of the “effective action on the part of Ukraine’s Defense Forces.” Serhiy Khlan, a regional legislator, said Ukrainian forces were also responsible for the strike on the courthouse, which he said took place on Friday as Kremlin-approved local leaders were meeting.
Ukrainian forces have disabled all the crossing over the Dnipro so the Russians have been relying on hastily built pontoons to move supplies back and forth.
On Saturday night, the Ukrainian military high command said that Russians had sunk nine rail wagons in the Dnipro in an attempt to make a crossing that would allow its forces to “retreat.”
As Ukraine seeks to degrade the Russians combat capabilities, its ground forces have been advancing steadily on the city of Kherson from several directions.
Ukrainian officials say they are making gains, slow and hard-fought, but steady. The Ukrainian military has restricted access to front line positions, making it hard to independently assess the state of the offensive.
But satellite images suggested that Russian forces had abandoned their position in the village of Kyselivka, less than 20 miles from the regional capital, appearing to confirm accounts from Russian military bloggers. It is unclear if Ukrainian forces have control of the village and it has been fought over in the past.
On Sunday, Ukrainian officials announced that the small village of Vysokopillia had been retaken. Only 270 residents remained — from nearly 4,000 before the war — and 80 percent of the homes in the village had been destroyed, according to the Kherson regional press office.
“There is no way to restore electricity and water supply, nor to return hospitals, pharmacies and shops to work,” Ukrainian authorities said.
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