Claims have been made on social media that the fire struck Skadovsk, a port city on the Black Sea in Ukraine’s Kherson region. A Twitter user shared images which appeared to show smoke and helicopters in the air nearby. MilitaryLand.net, a blog focused on the war, tweeted from its account: “Locals report several explosions in the vicinity of occupied Skadovsk, Kherson Oblast.
Fellow Twitter user, Special Kherson Cat, said: “Local residents report a fire near Skadovsk, Kherson region. It’s not known for sure if this was the result of shelling or just a fire due to the summer heat. But Russian helicopters are showing a clear interest to it.”
Heuvelrug Intelligence tweeted: “Active fighting reported in Skadovsk, Kherson oblast. Skadovsk has been occupied by Russian forces since February/March and is located 62km south of Kherson.”
Another Twitter user, Dariusz Zawadzki, said: “There are reports of explosions in Skadovsk, Kherson region. [Russian] helicopters are raised into the sky.”
Express.co.uk has not been able to independently verify any of the claims or reports.
Reports of smoke reportedly around Skadovsk come as British military intelligence said on Saturday Russia’s war in Ukraine is about to enter a new phase.
Defence Intelligence said most fighting is shifting to a nearly 217 mile long front stretching southwest from near Zaporizhzhia to Kherson, parallel to the Dnieper River.
It added Russian forces are almost certainly gathering in the south of Ukraine, in anticipation of a counter-offensive or in preparation for a possible assault.
Long convoys of Russian military trucks, tanks, towed artillery and other weapons continue to move away from Ukraine’s Donbas region towards the southwest.
Defence Intelligence’s update added battalion tactical groups (BTG), which are made up of between 800 to 1,000 troops, have been deployed to Crimea and would almost certainly be used to support Russian troops in the Kherson region.
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Ukraine formally closed its Skadovsk sea port in May along with three more of its Black and Azov sea ports after they were seized by Russian forces.
The Azov Sea ports of Mariupol, Berdiansk and Skadovsk as well as the Black Sea port of Kherson were closed “until the restoration of control”, Ukraine’s agriculture ministry said at the time.
All Ukrainian seaports had suspended activity as a result of the Russian invasion in late February, though Odesa has since seen shipments of grain following a deal between Russia and Ukraine brokered by Turkey.
Defence Intelligence’s update stated Ukraine’s forces are focusing their targeting on bridges, ammunition depots, rail links with growing frequency in its southern regions, including the strategically important railroad spur that links Kherson to Russian-occupied Crimea.
Meanwhile, on Friday the deputy head of the Russian-installed administration in the Kherson region denied reports the administration’s head, Volodymyr Saldo, had suffered a stroke and was in a coma.
Kirill Stremousov said in a statement on the Telegram messaging service the reports were part of Ukraine’s information war against Russia, although he confirmed Mr Saldo was ill and that he was “resting”.
Russian state-run broadcaster RT had previously reported Mr Saldo, a former mayor of the city of Kherson who was appointed to head the region of the same name when Russian troops overran it in early March, was in a coma and on life support.
The region is part of a swathe of Ukraine which Russia has occupied, extending north and eastward from the annexed Crimean peninsula along the north shore of the Sea of Azov to the Russian border.
Ukraine has said it will conduct a counteroffensive in Kherson region and has been carrying out strikes on Russian supply lines as well as ammunition dumps in the area. A senior official in the Russian-backed administration was killed in June in a bomb blast his colleagues blamed on Kyiv.
On Friday it emerged the southern frontline city of Mykolaiv would impose a curfew from late that day to early Monday morning as the authorities try to catch people collaborating with Russia.
Mykolaiv, which has been shelled throughout Russia’s invasion which began on February 24, lies close to Russian-occupied parts of Kherson where Ukraine is plotting a counteroffensive.