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Ukraine said to recapture several villages, as Russia hits Kharkiv nuclear facility

Poltavka and Malynivka ‘successfully liberated,’ Ukraine says; man detained on suspicion of espionage in Lviv; Russia detains Slavutych mayor, sparking protests

  • A machine gun emerges from under a Ukrainian national flag on a front line position near Kharkiv, Ukraine, March 26, 2022. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
    A machine gun emerges from under a Ukrainian national flag on a front line position near Kharkiv, Ukraine, March 26, 2022. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
  • Dead bodies are placed into a mass grave at a cemetery in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on March 26, 2022. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
    Dead bodies are placed into a mass grave at a cemetery in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on March 26, 2022. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
  • Smoke rises the air in Lviv, western Ukraine, Saturday, March 26, 2022. With Russia continuing to strike and encircle urban populations, from Chernihiv and Kharkiv in the north to Mariupol in the south, Ukrainian authorities said Saturday that they cannot trust statements from the Russian military Friday suggesting that the Kremlin planned to concentrate its remaining strength on wresting the entirety of Ukraine's eastern Donbas region from Ukrainian control. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)
    Smoke rises the air in Lviv, western Ukraine, Saturday, March 26, 2022. With Russia continuing to strike and encircle urban populations, from Chernihiv and Kharkiv in the north to Mariupol in the south, Ukrainian authorities said Saturday that they cannot trust statements from the Russian military Friday suggesting that the Kremlin planned to concentrate its remaining strength on wresting the entirety of Ukraine's eastern Donbas region from Ukrainian control. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)
  • Water is sprayed at the site in the aftermath of the first strike that involved Russian rockets that hit an oil facility in an industrial area in the northeastern outskirts of Lviv, Ukraine, March 27, 2022. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)
    Water is sprayed at the site in the aftermath of the first strike that involved Russian rockets that hit an oil facility in an industrial area in the northeastern outskirts of Lviv, Ukraine, March 27, 2022. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)
  • Dark smoke rises from a fire following an air strike in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, on March 26, 2022. (Photo by Yuriy Dyachyshyn / AFP)
    Dark smoke rises from a fire following an air strike in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, on March 26, 2022. (Photo by Yuriy Dyachyshyn / AFP)
  • A Ukrainian soldier stands on a destroyed Russian military vehicle after a recent battle in Kharkiv, Ukraine, March 26, 2022. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
    A Ukrainian soldier stands on a destroyed Russian military vehicle after a recent battle in Kharkiv, Ukraine, March 26, 2022. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

Ukrainian forces managed to recapture two villages from Russia early Sunday, according to Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia regional military administration.

The counterattack took place 103 kilometers (63 miles) northwest of the besieged city of Mariupol.

“The Melitopol Territorial Defense Battalion, together with other units of the Zaporizizhia Defense Forces, have successfully liberated the villages of Poltavka and Malynivka east of Huliaipole from the Russian occupiers,” the administration said, according to CNN.

Satellite imagery indicated heavy fighting taking place in the two villages in the past day.

Separately, a Ukrainian counterattack that began on Friday near Kharkiv recaptured several villages, local officials said.

The communities are about 20 kilometers (12 miles) east of central Kharkiv.

Unverified videos posted online claim to show combat in one of the villages, called Vilkhivka.

Earlier, Ukrainian officials said Russian forces fired on a nuclear research facility in Kharkiv.

The Ukrainian parliament, citing the State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate, said, “It is currently impossible to estimate the extent of damage due to hostilities that do not stop in the area of the nuclear installation.”

Russian forces have been accused of risking nuclear disaster in Ukraine by attacking the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Europe’s largest, and Chernobyl.

Dark smoke rises from a fire following an air strike in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, on March 26, 2022. (Photo by Yuriy Dyachyshyn / AFP)

Meanwhile, the governor of Ukraine’s Lviv region said on Sunday a man was detained on suspicion of espionage at the site of one of the two rocket attacks that rattled the city on Saturday.

Maksym Kozytskyy said police found the man had recorded a rocket flying toward the target and striking it. Police also found on his telephone photos of checkpoints in the region, which Kozytskyy said had been sent to two Russian telephone numbers.

Rockets hit an oil storage facility and an unspecified industrial facility, wounding at least five people. A thick plume of smoke and towering flames could be seen on Lviv’s outskirts hours after the attacks.

Water is sprayed at the site in the aftermath of the first strike that involved Russian rockets that hit an oil facility in an industrial area in the northeastern outskirts of Lviv, Ukraine, March 27, 2022. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)

Also on Saturday, Russian forces took control of a town where staff working at the Chernobyl nuclear site live and briefly detained the mayor, sparking protests, Ukrainian officials said.

“I have been released. Everything is fine, as far as it is possible under occupation,” Yuri Fomichev, mayor of Slavutych, told AFP by phone, after officials in the Ukraine capital Kyiv announced earlier he had been detained.

Earlier, the military administration of the Kyiv region, which covers Slavutych, announced that Russian troops had entered the town and occupied the municipal hospital. They also said that the mayor had been detained.

Residents took to the streets, carrying a large blue and yellow Ukrainian flag and heading towards the hospital, the administration said. Russian forces fired into the air and threw stun grenades into the crowd, it added.

It also shared on its Telegram account images in which dozens of people gathered around the Ukrainian flag and chanted: “Glory to Ukraine.”

Later Saturday, Fomichev posted a video on Facebook saying that at least three people had died, without elaborating on what had happened.

“We haven’t yet identified all of them,” he added, but said that civilians were among the dead.

While they had defended their town, they were up against a larger force, he said.

The Chernobyl plant was taken by the Russian army on February 24, the same day that Moscow launched its invasion of Ukraine.

Some 25,000 people live in the town 160 kilometers (99 miles) north of the capital, built after the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident.

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