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Donetsk city hall bombing adds to string of setbacks for the Kremlin

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A pro-Moscow official in the occupied Ukrainian region of Donetsk claimed that the mayor’s office in the separatist-controlled territory had been hit by Ukrainian rockets on Sunday.

“According to incoming information, today at 7:37 [6:37 a.m. in CET] there was a direct hit by enemy ordnance on Donetsk’s city administration building,” Alexey Kulemzin, who has served as Donetsk’s mayor since 2016, said in a statement on his Telegram channel.

Kulemzin later published several videos and images of the purported attack’s aftermath, showing a badly damaged building amid sparse flames and thick smoke. While he pointed out that three cars parked near the building caught fire, Kulemzin did not mention that any casualties had occurred.  

The attack, which Ukraine has so far not claimed, comes on the heels of another setback for Moscow. On Saturday, Russian media reported that two shooters had opened fire in a Russian military training center, killing 11 and wounding 15. According to Russian state news agency Tass, two men wielding small firearms shot on a group of volunteer soldiers during a firearm training session in a facility in Belgorod, near the border with Ukraine. The men were identified as from a country in the Commonwealth of Independent States, a regional club of post-Soviet states. 

The Reuters press agency cited senior a Ukrainian official as saying that the gunmen were citizens of Tajikistan, and chalking up the shooting to a dispute over religion (Tajiks are mostly Muslim, while Russia is mostly Christian); the agency was unable to independently confirm the claims. 

While largely negligible in numerical terms, the shooting is the latest of a collection of difficulties that have dogged Moscow in the past few weeks — including the destruction last week of the Kerch Bridge linking Russia and Crimea, a Ukrainian region which Russia claims to have annexed in 2014. 

In his usual evening address on Saturday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy claimed that over 65,000 Russian soldiers have been killed in the war so far, adding that he worried that even 100,000 dead would not be enough to “prompt the Kremlin to think a little bit.” 

While precise estimates of casualties on each side vary wildly, heavy losses reportedly caused Russian President Vladimir Putin to call for a “partial mobilization” on September 21, triggering the exodus of tens of thousands of young men out of the country. The Kremlin said last week that the mobilization would be phased out in two weeks, following the recruitment of 222,000 reservists.

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