Zelensky calls on Russian troops to withdraw from southern Ukraine

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called on Russian troops to “flee” across the border in his daily address Monday night following the launch of a Ukrainian counter-offensive to retake the Russian-occupied southern region of Kherson. Follow our liveblog to keep up with the latest developments. All times are Paris time (GMT+2).

9:53pm: Ukrainians launch rocket barrage at key Russian-occupied town, RIA reports

Ukrainian forces launched a barrage of rockets at the Russian-occupied town of Nova Kakhovka on Monday, leaving it without water or power, officials at the Russian-appointed local authority told RIA news agency.

The town lies just to the east of the city of Kherson, the target of a major counter-offensive that Ukraine launched earlier in the day.

9:09pm: Top pro-Russian official shot dead in Ukraine’s Kherson

A former deputy who switched allegiance from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky for the occupying Russian forces in the southern region of Kherson has been shot dead, Russian investigators said Monday.

Alexei Kovalev, “the deputy head of the military and civil administration in the Kherson region was killed by bullets”, the investigators said on Telegram.

The attack took place in his home on Sunday, they said, adding a young woman who lived with him was also a victim.

8:58pm: US urges ‘controlled shutdown’ of Zaporizhzhia plant

The US government urged Monday a complete shutdown of Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant as fighting intensifies in the area and international experts plan an inspection visit.

White House National Security Council Spokesman John Kirby reiterated calls to create a demilitarized zone around the facility, which was occupied by Russian troops in the early weeks of the six-month-old war and has experienced close hits by rockets or artillery shells.

“As we’ve said many times, a nuclear power plant is not the appropriate location for combat operations,” Kirby told reporters.

He said the risks of keeping the plant going grew last week when fires in the area forced the shutdown of a diesel-fueled electric plant that provides backup power to the Zaporizhzhia plant, potentially threatening nuclear reactor operations.

“We continue to believe that a controlled shutdown of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear reactors would be the safest and least risky option in the near term,” Kirby said.

7:49pm: Russian army says foiled Ukraine attacks in Kherson

The Russian army on Monday said it had thwarted Ukrainian offensives in the southern regions of Kherson and Mykolaiv and inflicted “heavy losses” on Kyiv’s forces.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky ordered his troops to launch attacks in three directions, but “this latest attempt at offensive operations by the enemy has miserably failed,” the Russian defence ministry said in a statement.

It added that the Russian army had destroyed 26 tanks, 32 armoured vehicles and two Su-25 jets and that the Ukrainians had lost more than 560 soldiers.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and Reuters)

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