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Dozens dead after military barracks hit in south Ukraine

Dozens dead after military barracks hit in south Ukraine
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Lviv: Dozens of soldiers were killed after Russian troops struck a Ukrainian military barracks in the southern city of Mykolaiv, witnesses told AFP on Saturday while a rescue operation was underway.

"No fewer than 200 soldiers were sleeping in the barracks" when Russian troops struck early Friday, a Ukrainian serviceman on the ground, 22-year-old Maxim, said without providing his last name.

"At least 50 bodies have been recovered, but we do not know how many others are in the rubble," he said.

Another soldier estimated that the bombing could have killed around 100 people.

Authorities have not yet released an official death toll.

The military facility located in the north of the city was fully destroyed after being hit by several rockets on Friday morning.

Russia used its newest Kinzhal hypersonic missiles for the first time in Ukraine on Friday to destroy a weapons storage site in the country's west, the defence ministry said.

Russia has never before admitted using the high-precision weapon in combat, and state news agency RIA Novosti said it was the first use of the Kinzhal hypersonic weapons during the conflict in pro-Western Ukraine.

Earlier on Saturday, a spokesman of the Russian Defense Ministry, Igor Konashenkov, said the Russian military hit the underground warehouse in Delyatyn on Friday with the hypersonic Kinzhal missile in its first reported combat use. According to Russian officials, the Kinzhal, carried by MiG-31 fighter jets, has a range of up to 2,000 kilometres and flies at 10 times the speed of sound.

A Russian mortar attack on Ukrainian town of Makariv in the Kyiv region killed seven people and hospitalised five on Friday, local police said in a statement on Saturday. "As a result of enemy shelling of Makariv, seven civilians were killed," the statement said. Meanwhile, Russia's Defence ministry said that the radio reconnaissance centres of Ukraine's military has been destroyed near Odessa as well. On Friday, Vladimir Putin appeared at a huge flag-waving rally at a packed Moscow stadium and lavished praise on his troops fighting in Ukraine, three weeks into the invasion.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called on Saturday for comprehensive peace talks with Moscow and also urged Switzerland to do more to crack down on wealthy Russian oligarchs who he said were helping wage war on his country with their money.

British intelligence warned that Russia, frustrated by its failure to achieve its objectives since it launched the invasion on February 24, was now pursuing a strategy of attrition that could intensify the humanitarian crisis.

Russian forces have taken heavy losses and their advance has largely stalled since Putin launched the assault, with long columns of troops that bore down on Kyiv halted in its suburbs.

But they have laid siege to cities, blasting urban areas to rubble, and in recent days have intensified missile attacks on scattered targets in western Ukraine, away from the main battlefields.

Zelenskyy, who makes frequent impassioned appeals to foreign audiences for help for his country, told an anti-war protest in Bern that Swiss banks were where the "money of the people who unleashed this war" lay and their accounts should be frozen.

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian President also called for comprehensive peace talks with Moscow, saying Russia would otherwise need generations to recover from losses suffered during the war.

He said Russia is trying to starve his country's cities into submission but warned on Saturday that continuing the invasion would exact a "toll on Russia for generations." The remarks came after Moscow held a mass rally in support of its bogged-down forces.

Zelenskyy accused the Kremlin in an overnight video address of deliberately creating a humanitarian catastrophe and appealed again for Putin to meet with him to prevent more bloodshed.

Noting that the 200,000 people reported to have attended the rally was similar to the number of Russian forces deployed to Ukraine, Zelenskyy said this event in Moscow illustrated the stakes of the largest ground conflict in Europe since World War II. "Picture for yourself that in that stadium in Moscow there are 14,000 dead bodies and tens of thousands more injured and maimed," the Ukrainian leader said, standing outside the presidential office in the capital, Kyiv. "Those are the Russian costs throughout the invasion."

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