June 1, 2023

Pavlohrad, Ukraine — The U.S. military said Monday that the battle over the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, which Russia has claimed repeatedly to be on the verge of seizing, had cost Vladimir Putin’s forces some 20,000 men since December alone. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the casualty figure rose to 100,000 when including wounded Russian fighters.

Kirby said he didn’t have casualty figures for Ukraine’s forces in Bakhmut, but the battle has been grueling, and a former U.S. Marine is among those to have fallen on the Ukrainian side of the front line. Former Marine Cooper “Harris” Andrews, 26, from Cleveland, was killed in Ukraine last week, his mother told CNN. She said he was hit by a mortar while helping evacuate civilians from Bakhmut, where Russian and Ukrainian forces have fought each other to a bloody stalemate.

As anticipation mounts for a looming Ukrainian spring counteroffensive, Russia has been taking preemptive revenge on the Ukrainian people, targeting civilian areas far from the front lines.

For three days Russia has fired salvos of missiles and explosive drones at cities across Ukraine, including a second barrage that targeted the capital Kyiv. Ukraine’s air defense systems stop many of the Russian missiles — a wall of protection that President Volodymyr Zelenskyy promised his country he was working to bolster with the help of the U.S. and other “partners.”

Ukraine’s Patriot missile systems arrive as Kyiv aims to boost defenses against Russia


Zelenskyy said Monday night that during just seven hours, between midnight and Monday morning, Ukraine had “managed to shoot down 15 Russian missiles. But unfortunately, not all of them.”

Several missiles slipped through the air defense net, and at least one of them slammed into the eastern town of Pavlohrad, about 70 miles from the front line and Russian-occupied ground.

A huge fireball lit up the skies amid the strikes. Ukrainian authorities would only say “an industrial complex” was struck. But not all the missiles hit their mark.

Two people were killed and 40 more injured in the attack on Pavlohrad. Residents told CBS News that air raid sirens blared all night.

Russian forces firing dozens of missiles and drones into Ukraine


As the alarm was raised, Olga and Serheii Litvenenko took shelter in a garage on their property. They went back inside at about 2:30 a.m., but as the sound of explosions echoed closer, they decided it was time to seek shelter again.

“I told to my wife, ‘Let’s run, it could hit the house,'” Serheii said, so they quickly pulled on their shoes and headed back toward the garage.

Then there was an explosion. Serheii said a rocket slammed right into the garage as they approached it. He pointed to the charred remains of their car.

“It overturned in front of my eyes… There was so much smoke, dust, and the fire started,” he recalled. He said he ran to a well and tried to connect a hose to douse the flames, but the pump was damaged, and he had to resort to a bucket.

“I was pouring [water] on the car, I wanted to save it. But I couldn’t… It just burned in a minute,” he said.

Rubble is seen on the property of Olga and Serheii Litvenenko, in Pavlohrad, eastern Ukraine, May 1, 2023, after an overnight Russian missile strike destroyed a garage they’d used as a bomb shelter. The couple were headed back to the garage when it was hit amid a Russian missile barrage, and they escaped. 

CBS News

Serheii, who spent 36 years working in the mines around Bakhmut, knows how close a call he and his wife had, and the shock was still fresh.

“I got lucky,” Serheii told CBS News. “Extremely lucky. I’m still trying to process exactly what happened. In my mind, it feels like I’m somewhere else.”

“I have a son on the front line right now,” Serheii said, cursing Russian President Vladimir Putin as a “beast.”

Ukrainian soldiers and civilians alike are all bracing for more pre-emptive Russian strikes ahead of the much-anticipated spring counteroffensive.

A senior Ukrainian defense official told CBS News that preparations were nearly complete, but that recent rainy weather may have delayed the start. When it does begin, he said, “the whole world will know.”

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