A massive car bomb on Tuesday maimed the Russian commander of an occupied Ukrainian town, the latest assassination attempt against a pro-Moscow official.
Footage from Berdyansk showed the burning wreckage of a car believed to belong to Bardin Artem Igorevich, the military commander appointed by Moscow to oversee the Russian-occupied city and surrounding region.
The explosion shook a tree-lined street in the city center, near the administration building. Igorevich was reportedly taken to hospital and is in serious condition.
A shootout took place following the blast, with footage overlooking the city picking up the sound of gunfire as smoke from the car billowed above the horizon.
The blast came as Kyiv claimed Moscow’s death toll in the war had now topped 50,000, and Ukrainian forces made their first gains in a counter-offensive against Vladimir Putin’s invading forces to the East.
Bardin is the latest official installed by Russian forces in Moscow-controlled Ukrainian territories to be injured or killed in attacks.
Kyiv has not officially claimed responsibility for the attacks, but they are believed to be carried out by pro-Ukrainian operatives in occupied areas.
Vladimir Rogov, a member of the Russian administration of the occupied Zaporizhzhia region, called the incident a terrorist attack on his Telegram channel.
He wrote that three other civilian cars were damaged in the explosion.
A massive car bomb on Tuesday maimed the Russian commander of an occupied Ukrainian town, according to reports. Pictured: A burnt-out car is seen on a street in Berdyansk, a city in eastern Ukraine
“Following the explosion, the city commander was hospitalized in serious condition. Doctors are providing him with the necessary medical care,” Rogov wrote.
“Three civilian cars were also damaged by the explosion, in which, by a happy coincidence, there was no one. Details of the incident are being worked out,” he added.
Speaking to the Russian news agency RIA Novosti, Rogov said: “Terrorists of the Zelensky regime are behind the terrorist attack and the attack on the commander of Berdyansk.” He said an investigation had been opened.
Since Putin’s forces seized the Donbass region in eastern Ukraine, as well as large parts of the Zaporizhzhia region in southern Ukraine, Russia’s advance on the its neighbor’s territory has been largely blocked off for months.
Eastern Ukraine has seen heavy fighting in recent months, with Kyiv forces now beginning to mount a counterattack against the occupiers in some areas.
Experts believe Putin wants to hold fake referendums in occupied regions as a prelude to full annexation – as the Russian president did in Crimea in 2014.
However, recent deaths of pro-Russian officials are seen as evidence that pro-Ukrainian saboteurs are operating inside Russian-held territory and potentially delaying plans to make eastern Ukraine an extension of the Russian territory.
Last month, a pro-Russian police chief in the region was found hanged.
Footage from Berdyansk (pictured) showed the burning wreckage of a car believed to belong to Bardin Artem Igorevich, the military commander appointed by Moscow to oversee the city and surrounding region.
The explosion shook a street in the city center, near the administrative building. Igorevich was reportedly taken to hospital and is in serious condition.
Andrei Ryzhkov had been a border guard in Ukraine before switching sides, it is reported. He was appointed chief of police by the occupying Kremlin forces.
Odessa official Sergei Bratchuk said Ryzhkov “was found hanging in a noose”. The precise circumstances of his hanging are not known but are being investigated by the Russian occupation forces.
And a week earlier, another regional official in the Zaporizhzhia region, Ivan Sushko, 40, was blown to death in a car bomb attack.
Both men were from Mykhailivka, near Berdyansk and in the same region as the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, currently besieged by Russian troops.
Alexander Kolesnikov, deputy head of the Berdyansk traffic police, was also blown up in a car bomb attack.
Pictured: Smoke is seen rising from the burning car in Berdyansk. The car exploded near the city administration building
Pictured: A map showing Berdyansk in eastern Ukraine, where the explosion took place on Tuesday. Eastern Ukraine has seen heavy fighting in recent months, with Kyiv forces now beginning to mount a counterattack against the occupiers in some areas.
Trends indicate that Putin’s forces are struggling to control lands that were taken earlier in the war.
News of the Berdyansk explosion came as the General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces reported that between February 24 and September 6, Russia had lost around 50,150 men – the first time the estimate exceeded 50,000.
In addition to the tens of thousands of troops, Russia lost 2,077 tanks, 4,484 armored fighting vehicles, 1,179 artillery units, 296 multiple rocket launchers, 156 air defense systems, 236 combat aircraft, 207 helicopters, 876 drones, 209 cruise missiles, 15 warships, 3,305 motor vehicles and tankers, and 109 special equipment units – according to the Ukrainian military.
Russia has claimed its losses have been much lower, but provides infrequent updates on its latest figures.
Ukraine claimed its first gains in a counter-offensive against the Russian army in the south, saying it had recaptured several areas and destroyed several targets.