Ukraine Strikes Russian Military Base in Occupied South as Offensive Looms

Strike is latest aiming to soften up Russian forces along a land corridor to occupied Crimea

Ukrainian infantry near the front-line city of Bakhmut, Ukraine. OLEKSANDR KLYMENKO/REUTERS

Ukraine hit a Russian military base in the occupied south, officials said, the latest in a series of strikes to target a key Russian supply route to Crimea as Kyiv is gearing up for a spring offensive.

The exiled mayor of the southern city of Melitopol, Ivan Fedorov, said Ukraine had struck the base in the nearby town of Vesele.

The strike, which he said took place late Thursday, is the latest in a growing campaign by Ukrainian forces to weaken Russia’s hold in the south. In the past week, there were explosions in the vicinity of a train depot and a military airstrip, and a Russian-installed official was seriously wounded in an apparent car bomb attack in the city.

“The second week in a row is hellish for the occupiers of Melitopol region,” Mr. Fedorov said on social media Friday.

Russia has been sending military personnel and vehicles there for several days after turning off internet and cellphone connections in the town to prevent locals from informing Ukrainian authorities about their movements, said Mr. Fedorov. “But they couldn’t hide it,” he said.

Russian forces seized Melitopol in the early days of the invasion last year, a major city on a key strip of land along Ukraine’s southern coast that connects mainland Russia with the Crimean Peninsula, which Russian forces occupied in 2014. Crimea provided the Russians with a critical launchpad for their invasion of Ukraine from the south, but it is vulnerable due to its limited connections with mainland Russia. 

Kyiv has given little away about its planned spring offensive, but analysts have speculated that they could seek to cut south toward Mariupol to the Sea of Azov to sever Russian supply lines.

From the north shore of that sea, Ukrainian forces may be able to strike the Kerch Strait Bridge, which Russia opened in 2018 to connect its mainland to Crimea. The bridge was hit with a blast in October that seriously damaged its structure and impeded Russian transport to Crimea. Russia is still working to repair it.

Two roads to Crimea run through a swampy isthmus from the Russia-controlled land bridge.

Ukraine’s military command said Friday that Russia was strengthening its fortifications in the southern Kherson and Zaporizhzhia provinces, as well as the northern district on the Crimean Peninsula.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Friday said that he convened the country’s top military commanders and security officials to discuss the planned spring offensive and the preparation of new brigades.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon said Thursday that it is investigating how purported classified U.S. government documents about the war in Ukraine appeared on social media platforms.

“We are aware of the reports of social media posts, and the Department is reviewing the matter,” Pentagon deputy press secretary Sabrina Singh said in a statement.

At least six images of documents were published. While one image appeared to be altered, U.S. defense officials said they believe at least some of the other images were leaks of documents produced by the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak called the documents “a bluff” by Russia “to regain the information initiative.” If Russia had genuine access to Pentagon information on the Ukrainian offensive, he said, it wouldn’t have made it public, and would have used the knowledge to prepare a trap instead.

“As for the real plans of the counteroffensive—Russian troops, without a question, will be the first to become acquainted with them,” he said. “I suppose that this may happen very soon.”

Mr. Zelensly said new “measures to prevent leaks of information about the plans of Ukrainian defense forces” were also discussed at his meeting with military and security officials.

—Yaroslav Trofimov and Nancy A. Youssef contributed to this article.

Write to James Marson at

One comment

  1. “The second week in a row is hellish for the occupiers of Melitopol region,”

    How nice! Let’s make it another week of hell, and then another one, and then a final hellish end for these cockroaches.

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