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Russia strikes weapons depot

Russian forces fired cruise missiles to destroy a large depot containing US and European weapons in western Ukraine's Ternopil region, Interfax reported yesterday, as street fighting raged in the eastern city of Severodonetsk.

The governor of the Ternopil region said a rocket attack on the city of Chortkiv fired from the Black Sea had partly destroyed a military facility, injuring 22 people. It was a rare attack in western Ukraine, with the east and south of the country having borne the brunt of Russian firepower.

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Moscow has repeatedly slammed the United States and other nations for supplying Ukraine with weapons. President Vladimir Putin said earlier this month that Russia would strike new targets if the West supplied longer-range missiles to Ukraine for use in high-precision mobile rocket systems.

Ukrainian leaders have renewed pleas to Western countries in recent days to speed up deliveries of heavy weapons as Russian forces pound the east of the country with artillery.

Luhansk Governor Serhiy Gaidai said yesterday that Ukrainian and Russian forces were still fighting street by street in Severodonetsk. He said that while Russian forces have taken most of the city, Ukrainian troops remain in control of an industrial area and chemical plant where some 800 civilians are sheltering.

"No one can say whether and how many victims there have been in the last 24 hours in Severodonetsk, where intense fighting continues," Gaidai said on the Telegram messaging app yesterday.

 "Everyone wants to evacuate now, probably, but so far there is no such possibility,"

In Lysychansk – Severodonetsk's twin city across the Donets River - a woman was killed in Russian shelling while four houses and a shopping centre were destroyed, Gaidai said.

To the south and southwest of Severodonetsk, Russian forces were firing mortars and artillery around a number of settlements, reports Reuters.

Ukrainian forces have proven more resilient than expected, but the US-based Institute for the Study of War said that as they use the last of their stocks of Soviet-era weapons and munitions, they will require consistent Western support.

The Interfax report yesterday said Russian forces had used Kalibr cruise missiles to attack the large depot in Chortkiv. It also said Russian forces had shot down three Ukrainian SU-25 fighter jets near Donetsk and Kharkiv in eastern Ukraine.

Russian authorities have started handing out Russian passports in two occupied Ukrainian cities - Kherson and Melitopol, Russian news agencies said. It was not known how many were distributed.

Separately, Ukrainian nuclear operator Energoatom announced that the connection between the Zaporizhzhia plant, now part of Russian-held territory in the south, and the UN's nuclear watchdog had been restored after a month and a half.

The Russian shelling of the plant -- the largest in Europe -- had sparked international outrage and fears over Ukraine's 15 operational reactors.