Russian shelling hits a landmark church in the Ukrainian city of Kherson

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russian shelling on Thursday damaged a landmark church in the city of Kherson that once held the remains of the renowned 18th-century commander who exerted Russian control through the southeast parts of modern Ukraine and annexed the Crimean Peninsula.

Ukraine’s emergency service said that four of its workers were wounded in a second round of shelling as they fought the fire at St. Catherine’s Cathedral. Four other people were wounded in the first shelling attack, which also hit a trolleybus, the general prosecutor’s office said.

The shelling followed the severe damage sustained by a beloved Orthodox cathedral in a missile strike last week in Odesa and underlined the war’s risk to the country’s cultural monuments.

The Kherson church, dating from 1781, is one of the city’s most notable buildings. It once was the burial spot for Prince Grigory Potemkin, a favorite of Russian Empress Catherine the Great.

The remains were removed last year while the city was still under Russian occupation. Russian forces withdrew from Kherson last November in the face of a Ukrainian counteroffensive.

Potemkin engineered the 1784 annexation of Crimea from the Crimean Khanate. His name entered popular speech because of stories, now widely doubted, that he erected fake settlements called “Potemkin villages” to impress Catherine during her long journey through Crimea and the southern territories.

In other developments, the governor of the Kyiv region, Ruslan Kravchenko, said Russia launched a wave of drone attacks on the capital area, but that all were shot down and there were no injuries or damage.

The Russian Defense Ministry said six Ukrainian drones were downed in the Kaluga region, about 150 kilometers (90 miles) south of Moscow, the latest incident of drones penetrating deep into Russia following attacks that twice hit buildings in the Russian capital that house some government ministries.

After enduring nearly nine months of Russian occupation, Kherson was recaptured by Ukrainian forces in November of last year, marking a momentous victory for Ukraine and a humiliating defeat for the Kremlin.

The Ukrainian recapture of Kherson instantly turned the city into the front line in the southern direction, facing daily Russian mostly artillery and drone attacks coming from across the Dnieper River. These relentless strikes often target civilian areas, resulting in routine casualty reports.

In early June, Kherson was shattered by the collapse of Kakhovka dam that resulted in flooding in the districts located near the riverbank and forcing thousands to evacuate.

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Jim Heintz contributed to this report from Tallinn, Estonia.

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