People take cover at metro station during a Russian rocket attack in Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday, May 29, 2023. Image Credit: AP

Kyiv: Russia said on Monday its military had hit Ukrainian air bases in overnight strikes and Ukrainian forces had shelled industrial facilities inside Russia as both sides sought the upper hand ahead of what Kyiv hopes will be a decisive counter-offensive.

In a rare acknowledgement of damage to a military “target”, Ukraine said that work was under way to restore a runway and that five aircraft were taken out of service in the western region of Khmelnitskiy, although it did not name the site or sites.

A large military airfield was located in the region before the war.

“At the moment, work is continuing to contain fires in storage facilities for fuel and lubricants and munitions,” the Khmelnitskiy region governor’s office said.

Russian state-owned news agency RIA cited the defence ministry as saying more than one air base was hit, but there was no confirmation from Ukraine of damage to any other air bases.

The Ukrainian capital came under attack for the 16th time this month in the morning after a second successive night of bombardments. But officials said most of the drones and missiles fired overnight had been shot down and no targets were hit in the morning.

The attacks, which sent Kyiv residents running for shelter in metro stations, were part of a new wave of Russian air strikes this month as Ukraine, armed with new Western weapons, prepares a push to try to take back territory occupied by Russian forces.

“With these constant attacks, the enemy seeks to keep the civilian population in deep psychological tension,” said Serhiy Popko, the head of the city’s military administration.

Ukraine’s military said an attack on Odesa port had caused a fire and damaged infrastructure but did not specify whether the damage threatened grain exports.

The country is an important global grain supplier and the port is vital for shipping agricultural products abroad. It is also one of three included in a UN-brokered deal on the safe export of grain via the Black Sea.

“A fire broke out in the port infrastructure of Odesa as a result of the hit. It was quickly extinguished. Information on the extent of the damage is being updated,” the military’s southern command said on Facebook.

Russia said on Monday that the Black Sea grain deal would no longer be operational unless a UN agreement with Moscow to overcome obstacles to Russian grain and fertiliser exports was fulfilled.

This month Moscow reluctantly agreed to extend the Black Sea grain deal until July 17, but said more progress had to be made to advance its own interests.

Cross-border shelling

After months of attacks on energy facilities, Russia, which began its full-scale attack of Ukraine just over 15 months ago, is now targeting military facilities and supplies to try to disrupt Ukraine’s preparations for its counterattack, Kyiv says.

Moscow says Ukraine has stepped up drone and sabotage attacks against targets inside Russia as it prepares for the counteroffensive.

The governor of Russia’s Belgorod region, which borders Ukraine, said several frontier settlements were shelled simultaneously by Ukrainian forces on Monday. Two industrial facilities were hit in the town of Shebekino and four employees were wounded, Vyacheslav Gladkov wrote on Telegram.

There was no immediate comment from Ukraine and Reuters was not able to independently verify the reports on the scale of the attacks on either side.

Ukraine said it had shot down 29 of 35 drones and 37 of 40 cruise missiles fired overnight by Russia, and the Kyiv military administration said its air defences had shot down over 40 of the “targets” fired at it.

“Another difficult night for the capital,” mayor Vitali Klitschko said on Telegram.

The attack follows one the previous night - the largest drone barrage yet launched on Kyiv - in which one person was killed and several injured. In Sunday’s attack, 36 drones were downed over the city.