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Ukraine says it destroyed Russia's Wagner militia Luhansk headquarters, army base in Melitopol

Russia continued to hit Ukrainian cities with missiles and Iranian-made drones over the weekend, causing serious damage to the electrical grid in Odesa, but Ukraine landed some blows of its own on Russia forces in occupied eastern Ukraine. The Ukrainian governor-in-exile of occupied Luhansk, Serhiy Haidai, said Sunday that Ukrainian forces had destroyed a hotel in Kadiivka that served as the regional headquarters of the Wagner Group militia, causing "significant losses."

Wagner's notorious mercenaries have been active in Russia's bloody effort to take Bakhmut. Ukrainian forces on Saturday hit Kadiivka, "just where Wagner headquarters was located," and "a huge number of those who were there died," Haidai said. "I am sure that at least 50 percent of those who managed to survive will die before they get medical care."

Ukrainian and Russia officials also said Ukraine fired rockets at the occupied city of Melitopol on Saturday, hitting at least one building commandeered by Russian troops, though there was no agreement on casualty numbers. The pro-Russian governor of Zaporizhzhia region, which includes Melitopol, said two people were killed and 10 injured by the Ukrainian HIMARS rockets, while the exiled major Ivan Fedorov said as many as 200 Russian troops were killed. Russian and Ukrainian social media channels said there were dozens of casualties.

Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, explained Sunday that Ukraine is targeting Melitopol because all supply lines from Russia to eastern Kherson and Crimea run through it. "If Melitopol falls, the entire defense line all the way to Kherson collapses," he said. "Ukrainian forces gain a direct route to Crimea." Pro-Kyiv partisans, who have been hitting targets in Melitopol for months, claimed credit for explosions in Crimea on Saturday, including at a military base.  

Ukraine's recapture of western Kherson province in November put Melitopol and other logistics hubs close to Crimea in range of the U.S.-supplied HIMARS rockets. "But Ukraine has so far been able to mount only a limited defense against Moscow's campaign of missile and drone attacks, The Wall Street Journal reports. Odesa's power grid will take weeks to repair, Zelensky said. Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said Sunday that "after eight waves of missile attacks on the country, all thermal and hydroelectric power stations are damaged," as are 40 percent of "high-voltage network facilities."