An entire family including a newborn girl and her 12-year-old brother were among seven people killed during intense Russian shelling in a village in southern Kherson on Sunday.
Russian shells hit the village of Shiroka Balka, on the banks of the Dnieper River, and killed a family that included a husband, wife, 12-year-old boy and 23-day-old baby girl, Ukraine’s Internal Affairs Ministry said.
Another resident was also killed, as well as two men in the neighbouring village of Stanislav.
Ukraine’s interior minister Igor Klymenko said the shells hit the family’s home in Shiroka Balka, adding: “Terrorists must be stopped. They must be stopped by force. They don’t understand anything else.”
A photo shared by Mr Klymenko on Telegram showed plumes of smoke rising from the family’s home in the aftermath of the attack.
Kherson was one of four regions in Ukraine that Russian president Vladimir Putin claimed to have annexed last year.
But Ukrainian forces are said to be making gains against the Russian invaders.
Ukrainian military officials this weekend claimed that Kyiv’s forces had made progress in the south, with some success near a key village in the southern Zaporizhzhia region and the capture of other unspecified territories.
Meanwhile, Kyiv’s forces are trying to pierce Russian lines in the western parts of the Donetsk region, where waves of Ukrainian fighters were deployed to gain a foothold to the east of the town of Staromaiorske, according to a Russian-installed official in parts of Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia.
The official, Vladimir Rogov, also claimed there had been intense fighting south of Velyka Novosilka as Ukrainian troops try to pierce Russian lines to push down to the coast on the Sea of Azov.
Mr Rogov said: “The enemy managed to enter and gain a foothold in the northern part of Urozhaine after two weeks of the heaviest and bloodiest battles for this settlement.”
He added that Russian soldiers still controlled the southern part of Urozhaine and that Ukrainian forces were clearly aiming to take control of the town of Staromlynivka further south.
Ukraine launched a counteroffensive in June, attempting to retake swathes of territory captured by Russia in the south and east of the country. It has so far recaptured several villages in the south and some territory around the ruined city of Bakhmut in the east.
Meanwhile, a Russian warship on Sunday fired warning shots at a cargo ship in the southwestern Black Sea as it made its way northwards.
This is the first time Russia has fired on merchant shipping beyond Ukraine since exiting a landmark UN-brokered grain deal last month.
Russia in July halted participation in the Black Sea grain deal that allowed Ukraine to export agricultural produce via the Black Sea and Moscow cautioned that it deemed all ships heading to Ukrainian waters to be potentially carrying weapons.
Russia said in a statement that its Vasily Bykov patrol ship had fired automatic weapons on the Palau-flagged Sukru Okan vessel after the ship’s captain failed to respond to a request to halt for an inspection.
Russia said the vessel was making its way towards the Ukrainian port of Izmail. Refinitiv shipping data showed the ship was currently near the coast of Bulgaria and heading towards the Romanian port of Sulina.
“To forcibly stop the vessel, warning fire was opened from automatic weapons,” the Russian defence ministry said, adding that its forces boarded the vessel with the help of a Ka-29 helicopter.
“After the inspection group completed its work on board, the Sukru Okan continued on its way to the port of Izmail,” the defence ministry said.
A Turkish defence ministry official said he had heard an incident had taken place involving a ship heading for Romania.
A spokesman for Ukraine’s defence ministry said officials had no details about the incident yet but that it was “clearly another hostile act” by Russia.
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s general staff claimed that panic is growing among the Russian forces amid a growing number of desertions, the Kyiv Post reported.
It claimed Moscow military officials are conducting house-to-house searches for deserters in Hornostaivka in the Kherson region.
Drinking and drug use among newly conscripted troops has also increased with individuals leaving their positions and hiding in abandoned buildings, it said.