Russian forces hold the line in Kherson as Ukraine counterstrikes

Russia says its forces have battled oncoming Ukraine troops to a standstill in the country’s south and inflicted “significant losses”.

Russian soldiers held their positions during “fierce fighting” in the Kherson region and Ukrainian troops were also targeted in the eastern region of Donetsk, Russia’s defence ministry said on Sunday.

“The enemy made attempts to break through the defence of the Russian troops in the areas of Koshara and Pyatykhatky in the Kherson region with forces of up to three battalions, including one tank battalion,” chief defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said.

“The Russian army units held their positions in fierce battles, inflicting significant losses on the enemy,” he said.

Al Jazeera could not independently verify the battlefield reports.

Ukraine’s presidential office said Moscow’s military shelled towns and villages along the front line in the east and “active hostilities” continued in the Kherson region.

Ukrainian army spokesman Oleksandr Shtupun said the Russians began the evacuation of “state institutions” from the Kherson region to Crimea. Shtupun said the Ukrainian army carried out 20 attacks over the past day.

Russian forces targeted more than 30 towns and villages across Ukraine, launching five missiles and 23 air strikes and up to 60 rocket attacks, the General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces said.

Fighting was particularly intense in the eastern provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk and the strategically important Kherson province. They were three of the four provinces Russian President Vladimir Putin proclaimed as part of Russia last month.

Konashenkov acknowledged that Russia attacked Ukrainian regions on Sunday.

“During the past 24 hours, the Russian armed forces continued to strike with high-precision, long-range, air-launched weapons at military command and control facilities as well as the energy system of Ukraine,” Konashenkov said. “The goals of the strikes were achieved. All assigned targets were hit.”

Shelling by Ukrainian forces damaged the administration building in the city of Donetsk, capital of the Donetsk region, the head of its Russian-backed administration said on Sunday.

“It was a direct hit. The building is seriously damaged. It is a miracle nobody was killed,” Alexey Kulemzin said while surveying the wreckage.

There was no immediate reaction from Ukraine to the attack on Donetsk city, which was annexed by Russian-backed separatists in 2014 along with a large part of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions.