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July 5, 2022 12:05 am

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Another of Putin’s top officers killed after helicopter hit by missile

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A Russian colonel has died in a helicopter crash after it was hit by a Ukrainian missile.

Lieutenant colonel Sergey Gundorov, 51, is said to be the 55th Russian officer of that rank to be killed since president Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

His military helicopter was struck by a portable surface-to-air missile while flying near Volnovakha in the Donbas. The Mi-35 hit the ground before cartwheeling over a strip of woodland and then exploding in a field.

Video footage also showed a second helicopter being targeted but escaping after firing decoy flares.

Lieutenant colonel Gundorov had won three Orders of Courage. Online tributes to the married dad-of-two, who died last Thursday but whose loss has only just been revealed, included one from his teenage son Ilya who posted: ‘Love you Dad.’

The deaths of two other colonels were announced on the same day last week – colonel Sergei Krasnikov, 56, who had volunteered to rejoin the forces to fight in Ukraine, and colonel Sergei Postnov, who was in his 40s.

The Kremlin is also thought to have lost at least 11 generals.

Overall, Russian deaths in the conflict are believed to be above 30,000. However, some estimates have put the figure closer to 50,000.

Meanwhile, Russian troops have seized control of a key battleground in Severodonetsk, as Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky warned Moscow would likely escalate attacks in the days to come.

The town of Toshkivka, on the Kyiv-held western bank of the Siverskyi Donets river fell into Russian hands as EU leaders flew to Ukraine to support its bid to join its 27-nation bloc.

The Kremlin has also captured Metyolkine, a village near Severodonetsk which has become the front line of the war in recent weeks.

In his latest address via video, Mr Zelensky warned Ukrainians: ‘We should expect from Russia an intensification of hostile activities. We are ready.’

He also repeated his plea for Western allies to send more weapons to fend off the Russian onslaught.

‘We need your support. This is a matter of life or death,’ he said.

Ukraine now controls just one area of Severodonetsk, the Azot chemical plant where fighters and about 500 civilians are taking shelter.

Luhansk governor Serhiy Haidai said the situation in the city was ‘very difficult’:
‘It’s hell there. Everything is engulfed in fire. The shelling doesn’t stop.’

Russia also continues to bombard key sites in Kharkiv, with the Saltiv tram depot destroyed in the latest attack.

But, here, the Ministry of Defence insisted the war was not going all Russia’s way. Moscow’s ground troops are said to be exhausted and poor air support is stalling their advance into north and eastern Ukraine.

Meanwhile, international concern remains focused on trying to restore Ukrainian exports of food, halted by a Russian blockade of its ports.

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