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Russia retaliates with deadly force after major losses to Ukrainian counteroffensive

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A destroyed Russian tank is seen in a field in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Saturday. Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city, has escaped total Russian control since the war began in February. Photo by Oleg Petrasyuk/EPA-EFE
A destroyed Russian tank is seen in a field in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Saturday. Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city, has escaped total Russian control since the war began in February. Photo by Oleg Petrasyuk/EPA-EFE

Sept. 19 (UPI) -- Russia launched a series of fresh attacks throughout Ukraine on Monday as Moscow persisted with retaliating for Kyiv's counteroffensive this month, which has taken away thousands of square miles from Russian forces and forced them to retreat.

Officials said that more than a dozen people were killed on Monday in new shelling attacks in the breakaway province of Donetsk, where Mayor Alexei Kulemzin confirmed that two children were among the dead.

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The Russian assault targeted Kuybyshevsky, where Ukrainian soldiers have established a stronghold on the city's outskirts.

In the south, Ukrainian authorities accused Russia of "nuclear terrorism" after a missile struck early Monday close to a nuclear power plant.

RELATED Moscow takes Ukrainian orphans to place with Russian families; number killed grows

The attack near the South Ukraine nuclear plant in Yuzhnoukrainsk knocked out critical infrastructure in the area, but did not cause any damage to the facility's three nuclear reactors, authorities said.

The plant, located in Ukraine's Mykolaiv region, is the second Ukrainian nuclear facility to come under fire in recent weeks. The Zaporizhzhia plant was close to shelling for weeks before United Nations inspectors arrived at the facility to assess its safety.

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The Zaporizhzhia plant is the largest nuclear power facility in Europe, and the South Ukraine plant is the second-largest in the country.

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The Russian strikes came after Kremlin President Vladimir Putin warned of retaliation for Ukraine's recent and surprising military victories in the south and northeast. Russian troops suffered devastating losses and were forced to retreat, mostly in the country's northeast.

Elsewhere, the Ukrainian military reported forces were holding off Russian troops in the Kharkiv region in the northeast, and near Kherson in the southeast. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky vowed to fight on and reclaim land that's been taken by Russia since the war began in February.

Zelensky has accused Russia of "leaving death everywhere" after investigators found a mass of unmarked graves in Izyum last week. Officials said they found evidence that victims had been bound with rope and tortured, prompting calls for war crimes charges.

RELATED Military officials say 440 unmarked graves found in liberated city in east Ukraine

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov dismissed Zelensky's claims.

"It's the same scenario as in Bucha," he said according to The Guardian, referring to a region outside Kyiv where Russian troops were accused of killing numerous civilians.

"It's a lie, and of course we will defend the truth in this story."

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Ukraine prosecutor general Andy Kostin and Ukrainian Ambassador to the United States Oksana Markarova said on Sunday that there's a broad investigation looking into accusations of thousands of Russian war crimes in Ukraine.

"What we see now is, of course, the horrible amount of potential war crimes committed by the Russian aggressor," Kostin told CBS' Face The Nation.

"And it seems that, for me, that whenever the Russian Army comes, they turn this place into the new Bucha, as we see in Izyum."

In an interview with 60 Minutes that aired on Sunday, U.S. President Joe Biden called Putin's actions "barbaric" and warned him against escalating the war with nuclear weapons in the face of defeat.

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