Gunfire was reported Tuesday in southern Ukraine’s Russian-occupied city of Kherson amid Kyiv’s counteroffensive to retake the surrounding region from Russian troops.
Local news outlet Most reported intense shooting on the streets of central Kherson’s Pivnichnyi and Tavriiskyi neighborhoods.
Shots were also heard outside a prison colony in the southern part of the city, according to Ukraine’s UNIAN news agency.
It was impossible to immediately confirm who was involved in the shooting, and whether Ukrainian troops were inside the city.
Ukrainian spies and saboteurs were killed near Kherson’s Tavriiskyi neighborhood Tuesday, Russian-installed official Kirill Stremousov said in comments to state-run TASS news agency.
“Everything is under control. They were all killed,” he said, according to TASS.
Footage on social media also showed large palls of black smoke hanging over the outskirts of Kherson, apparently from significant explosions.
At least eight air defense missiles were fired over Kherson’s airspace Tuesday morning, the state-run TASS news agency reported.
The uptick in military activity around Kherson, which had a pre-war population of 280,000, comes amid what appears to be the start of a major Ukrainian effort to take back areas in the south seized by Russia after its February invasion.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s office reported heavy fighting in “almost the entire territory” of the Kherson region Tuesday, saying the long-anticipated counteroffensive marked “the beginning of the de-occupation of Kherson region.”
Stremousov previously said that the Kherson region was not threatened by Ukraine’s counteroffensive due to “several lines of defense.”
Afp contributed reporting.