Shooters shot and killed 11 people at Russia’s military training ground, the defence ministry said in the latest blow to President Vladimir Putin’s military since the invasion of Ukraine.
The RIA news agency, citing the ministry, said on Saturday that 15 others were injured in a shooting in Russia’s southwestern Belgorod region, which borders Ukraine when two men shot a group that had volunteered.
It said two attackers – citizens of an unspecified former Soviet republic – had been shot. Some Russian independent media outlets reported that the casualties were higher than official figures.
“In our region, a terrible incident occurred in the territory of one of the military units,” Belgorod region governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said early Sunday.
“Many soldiers were killed and wounded … Among the wounded and killed, there are no residents of the Belgorod region,” Gladkov said in a video post on the Telegram messaging app.
The attack came a week after damaged a bridge in Crimea, a peninsula annexed by Russia from Ukraine in 2014. Earlier in the war, the Russian flagship flew and sank in the Black Sea.
The RIA quoted a Defense Ministry statement saying, “During a firearms training session with individuals who voluntarily expressed their willingness to participate in a special military operation (against Ukraine), terrorists attacked the unit’s personnel. Firing with small arms.”
Just a day earlier, Putin said Russia should end calling for reservists in two weeks, promising to end a divisive mobilization that called for hundreds of thousands of men to fight in Ukraine and large numbers from the country.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said in a YouTube interview that the attackers were from the Central Asian nation of Tajikistan and were firing at others after a debate over religion.
Tajikistan is a predominantly Muslim nation, while nearly half of Russians follow various branches of Christianity. The Russian ministry said the attackers were from a Commonwealth of the Independent States country, a grouping of nine ex-Soviet republics, including Tajikistan.
Reuters could not immediately confirm the comments of Erestovich, a prominent commentator on the war, or independently verify casualty numbers and other details of the incident.
Elsewhere, Zelensky said Ukrainian troops had captured the strategic eastern city of Bakhmut despite repeated Russian attacks, while the situation in the larger Donbas region remained complicated.
The Russian army has repeatedly tried to seize Bakhmut, located on the main road leading to the cities of Sloviansk and Kramatorsk. Both are located in the Donetsk region.
The General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces said on Sunday that in the 24 hours to Sunday morning, Russian forces targeted more than 30 towns and villages in Ukraine, using five missiles and 23 airstrikes and 60 rocket attacks.
In response, the Ukrainian Air Force launched 32 strikes targeting 24 Russian targets.
Fighting is particularly intense in the eastern provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk and the strategically important Kherson province to the south, three of the four areas Putin declared as part of Russia last month.
The Russian-backed administration said on Sunday that shelling by Ukrainian forces damaged an administrative building in the city of Donetsk, the capital of the Donetsk region.
Kirill Stremosov, a Russian-established official in the Kherson region, said on the Telegram messaging app on Sunday that Russian forces had repelled an attack by Ukrainian troops in the area and that the situation there was “under control”.
Ukraine’s southern command said on Saturday it had repeated attacks on positions of its forces and a short “firing battle” near the village of Trifonivka in the Kherson region.
The Russian army also fired about 20 Russian-made Grad rockets on the Kherson region’s right bank of the Dnipro River.
Russia’s defence ministry said on Saturday that its forces killed over 50 Ukrainian soldiers and destroyed five tanks near the Kakhovka reservoir on the Dnipro River.
Reuters was not able to independently confirm the battlefield report.
The Ukrainian military and civilians rely on Starlink internet service provided by Elon Musk’s SpaceX rocket company. Musk said on Friday that he could no longer fund the service but said on Saturday he would continue to do so.
Zelenskiy said some 65,000 Russians had been killed since the February 24 attack, far higher than Moscow’s estimated 5,937 dead on September 21. In August, the Pentagon said Russia had suffered between 70,000 and 80,000 casualties, either killed or wounded.
Zelensky’s chief of staff, Andrey Yermak, said on Telegram on Sunday that Ukraine would emerge victorious in the war because of the continued military aid it receives from the West and the cumulative effect of Western sanctions on Russia’s economy.
“Ukraine’s offensive is strategic, and Russia’s defeat is inevitable,” Yermak said.