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11 Killed, 15 wounded in Gun attack at Russian military base

Gunmen shot and killed at least 11 people at a Russian military training ground on Saturday, the Defense Ministry said, in the latest blow to President Vladimir Putin’s forces since the war began with Ukraine.

The RIA news agency quoted the ministry as saying another 15 people were wounded in a shooting in Russia’s southwestern Belgorod region, which borders Ukraine, on Saturday when two men shot dead a group that had volunteered to take part in the war.

It said the two attackers – citizens of an unspecified former Soviet republic – had been shot dead. Some Russian independent media reported that the death toll was higher than official figures.

“A terrible event happened on our territory, on the territory of one of the military units,” said Belgorod Region Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov early Sunday morning.

“Many soldiers were killed and wounded… There are no residents of the Belgorod region among the wounded and killed,” Gladkov said in a video on the Telegram messaging app.

The attack came a week after an explosion damaged a bridge in Crimea, a peninsula Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014. Earlier in the war, a Russian flagship exploded and sank in the Black Sea.

“During firearms training with individuals who volunteered to participate in a special military operation (against Ukraine), terrorists opened fire from small arms at the unit’s personnel,” RIA quoted the Defense Ministry as saying.

Just a day earlier, Putin said Russia should end conscripts within two weeks and promised an end to a divisive mobilization that has seen hundreds of thousands of men drafted to fight in Ukraine and huge numbers fleeing the country.

Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, said in a YouTube interview that the attackers were from the Central Asian state of Tajikistan and opened fire on others after an argument about religion.

Tajikistan is a predominantly Muslim nation, while around half of Russians practice various branches of Christianity. The Russian ministry said the attackers were from a nation in the Commonwealth of Independent States, which brings together nine former Soviet republics, including Tajikistan.

Reuters was not immediately able to confirm the comments by Arestovych, a prominent commentator on the war, or independently verify the death toll and other details of the incident.

Independent Russian news website SOTA Vision said the attack took place in the small town of Soloti, close to the Ukrainian border and about 105 km (65 miles) southeast of Belgorod.

Zelenskyy said on Saturday that Ukrainian troops were still holding the strategic eastern city of Bakhmut despite repeated Russian attacks, while the situation in the greater Donbass region remained very difficult.

Russian forces have repeatedly tried to capture Bakhmut, which lies on the main road leading to the cities of Sloviansk and Kramatorsk. Both are located in the Donetsk region.

In the 24 hours to Sunday morning, Russian forces targeted more than 30 towns and villages across Ukraine, launching five missile and 23 airstrikes and up to 60 rocket attacks, the General Staff of Ukraine’s armed forces said Sunday.

In response, the Ukrainian Air Force carried out 32 strikes, hitting 24 Russian targets.

Fighting is particularly intense in the eastern provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk and the strategically important province of Kherson in the south, three of the four provinces that Putin “annexed”.

The positions of the southern forces were attacked several times on Saturday and a small “shooting battle” took place near the village of Tryfonivka (in Kherson), the southern command of the Ukrainian armed forces said on Sunday.

Russian forces also fired nearly 20 Russian-made Grad rockets on the right bank of the Dnieper River in the Kherson region, the agency said.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said on Saturday that its forces had killed dozens of Ukrainian soldiers and destroyed five tanks near the Kakhovka Dam on the Dnieper River.

Reuters was unable to independently verify reports from the battlefield.

Although Ukrainian troops have retaken thousands of square kilometers (miles) of land in recent offensives in the east and south, officials say progress is likely to slow as Kiev forces face more determined resistance.

Ukrainian forces and civilians rely on the Starlink internet service provided by Elon Musk’s SpaceX rocket company. Musk said on Friday that he could no longer afford to fund the service, but said on Saturday that he would continue to do so.

Zelensky said nearly 65,000 Russians had been killed so far since the February 24 invasion, a figure far higher than Moscow’s official September 21 estimate of 5,937 dead. In August, the Pentagon reported that Russia had suffered between 70,000 and 80,000 casualties, either killed or wounded.

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