KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russian shelling on Thursday damaged a landmark church in the city of Kherson that once held the remains of the renowned 18th-century commander who exerted Russian control through the southeast parts of modern Ukraine and annexed the Crimean Peninsula.
Ukraine’s emergency service said four of its workers were wounded in a second round of shelling as they fought the fire at St. Catherine’s Cathedral. Four other people were wounded in the first shelling attack, which also hit a trolleybus, the prosecutor general’s office said.
The shelling followed the severe damage sustained by a beloved Orthodox cathedral in a missile strike last week in Odesa and underlined the war’s risk to the country’s cultural monuments. Fighting has intensified in multiple regions as Ukraine’s military steps up a counteroffensive to reclaim Russian-occupied territory.
The Kherson church, dating from 1781, is one of the city’s most notable buildings. It once was the burial spot for Prince Grigory Potemkin, a favorite of Russian Empress Catherine the Great.
Potemkin engineered the 1784 annexation of Crimea from the Crimean Khanate. His name entered popular speech because of stories, now widely doubted, that he erected fake settlements called “Potemkin villages” to impress Catherine during her long journey through Crimea and the southern territories.
The Ukrainian president’s office said two people were killed over the past day in Russian attacks — one in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk province and one in Zaporizhzhia province.
The Ukrainian air force said Russia launched a wave of 15 Shahed drones against the Kyiv region but all were shot down. The governor of the capital region, Ruslan Kravchenko, said there were no injuries or damage.
Ukraine’s military also continued to launch attack drones deep into Russia. The Russian Defense Ministry said six Ukrainian drones were downed in the Kaluga region, about 150 kilometers (90 miles) south of Moscow, the latest incident following attacks that twice hit buildings in the Russian capital that house some government ministries.
Kaluga Gov. Vladislav Shapsha reported another drone was shot down later Thursday.
After enduring nearly nine months of Russian occupation, Kherson was recaptured by Ukrainian forces in November of last year, marking a momentous victory for Ukraine and a humiliating defeat for the Kremlin.
The Ukrainian recapture of Kherson instantly made the city the front line in the country’s south and a target of daily Russian attacks, mostly artillery and drone attacks mostly artillery and drones coming from Russian-held territory across the Dnieper River. The relentless strikes often result in reports of civilan casualties.
Jim Heintz contributed to this report from Tallinn, Estonia.
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Hanna Arhirova, The Associated Press