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By Maria Starkova and Ronald Popsky
LVIV, Ukraine, Nov 12 (Reuters) – At least three Russian officers lost their lives in an explosion in the Moscow-controlled Ukrainian city of Melitopol, as indicated by Ukraine’s intelligence agency on Sunday, citing it as a “vengeful act” by local resistance groups.
The explosion took place during a gathering of Russian officials in the city of Melitopol in southwestern Ukraine, which has turned into a center for Russian forces following its capture during the initial stages of the conflict.
According to the Ukrainian Defense Ministry’s intelligence department’s statement on the Telegram messaging app, “This vengeful act, carried out by representatives of the local resistance movement, occurred in (postal) facilities seized by the Russians.”
Reuters was unable to independently verify the claim made by Ukrainian intelligence. Russia’s Defense Ministry did not respond immediately to a Reuters request for comment.
As per the Ukrainian intelligence report, the meeting on Saturday was attended by officers from the Russian National Guard and the FSB intelligence service.
“At least three National Guard officers perished at the headquarters due to the explosion,” the statement affirmed. “Details regarding further losses on the enemy’s side are currently being clarified.”
Both Russia and Ukraine have frequently underreported their military casualties in the 20-month conflict, while amplifying the losses inflicted on each other.
Ukraine has initiated multiple offensives on Melitopol, a city located in the Zaporizhia region, with a pre-war population of around 150,000, which has become strategically crucial for Moscow in safeguarding the territories it presently controls in the southern part of Ukraine.
“The foe persists in establishing its headquarters there without learning from previous experiences,” stated Melitopol’s exiled mayor Ivan Fedorov in an interview with Ukrainian public television.
Ukraine, which commenced a gradual and strenuous counteroffensive in the south and east at the beginning of June, has managed to secure only a few small settlements on the front line. Kiev expressed that the capture of Melitopol would pave the way for the Ukrainian forces to advance towards the Crimean peninsula.
In September, the Ukrainian military executed a missile strike on the Black Sea Fleet headquarters in Russian-occupied Crimea. Ukrainian media reported that Russian officials were also targeted in an attack on the occupied town of Skadovsk in the Kherson region last week. (Writing by Ron Popsky and Lydia Kelly; Editing by Grant McCool and Lincoln Feist.)