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Car bombing in Russian-occupied Ukraine shows scope of war

A car bomb killed at least one person Friday night in Russian-occupied southern Ukraine, according to Ukrainian and Russian officials, underscoring the reach of the war far beyond front lines as Ukrainian partisans take aim to undermine their occupants.

The explosion occurred in Mykhailivka, a town in Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia region. The targeted vehicle was carrying “four Kremlin supporters,” Ivan Fedorov, the exiled Ukrainian mayor of the Russian-occupied town of Melitopol, about 30 miles south, said on the Telegram messaging app.

Vladimir Rogov, a Russian occupation official in the Zaporizhzhia region, confirmed the attack in a Telegram message, saying the bomb killed a “local businessman” named Sergei Didovoduk and injured two others. .

The attack comes as Ukrainian forces prepare for a much-anticipated counter-offensive that analysts say will take place in southern Ukraine. Troops from Kyiv will likely aim to cut off land routes that connect Russia with Crimea, which Moscow illegally annexed in 2014, according to Western analysts and officials.

“We are ready,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a recent interview with The Wall Street Journal published Saturday.

Much hinges on the counter-offensive to come, particularly in the wake of Russia’s recent capture of the eastern Ukrainian town of Bakhmut. Meanwhile, partisan attacks like the one on Friday night have become a fixture in occupied areas as Ukrainian insurgents target the Russian military and so-called Russian collaborators.

Mr Rogov described Mr Didovoduk as a member of local civil society who “regularly fed needy neighbors in his coffee for free”. According to Mr. Rogov and unverified footage of the aftermath of the attack posted on social media, Mr. Didovoduk died in a Soviet-made Niva car, an unassuming sports utility vehicle.

Ukrainian officials suggested that Mr Didovoduk’s cafe, the Hetman, was frequented by Russian soldiers and occupation officials.

The cafe is named after the customary title of the Cossack head of state that existed in Ukraine in the 17th and 18th centuries and played a major role in the founding of modern Ukraine.

Mr Didovoduk has been registered to run for Russia’s ruling party in the upcoming local elections, Mr Rogov said. The Kremlin has pushed ahead with plans to hold local elections in September in four Ukrainian regions that Russia illegally annexed last year, an attempt to legitimize the moves despite the constantly shifting borders of Russian-held territory.

Ukraine has denounced the elections in the annexed regions – Zaporizhzhia, Kherson, Lugansk and Donetsk – as a sham.

The killing of Mr. Didovoduk also raises questions about the legality of partisan attacks under the internationally recognized laws of war, including whether partisans are considered combatants.

Ukrainian partisans say they are civilians and the legal basis for their activity is governed by Ukrainian law, not the laws of war which prohibit a soldier from targeting a civilian official. But under international law, civilians become combatants when they take part in hostilities.

Here’s what else is happening in Ukraine:

Bomb Shelters: A nationwide inspection of bomb shelters across Ukraine found that 893 of more than 4,800 checked so far were “unusable”, the interior minister said on Saturday. Mr Zelensky ordered inspections in response to accusations and questions raised by the deaths of three people who were locked outside their neighborhood shelter at a children’s health clinic in Kyiv on Thursday.

As part of an ongoing criminal investigation, the clinic’s security guard was taken into custody on Saturday pending trial, according to the Kyiv City Prosecutor’s Office. Three other people were placed under 24-hour house arrest, he added.

nytimes Eur

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