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Four die in war-related incidents in Ukraine, Kyiv says it is pushing south

FILE PHOTO: Local residents evacuate in the city of Kupiansk-Vuzlovyi

KYIV (Reuters) -At least four people died in Ukraine on Tuesday in incidents related to Russia's 18-month-old invasion of its neighbour, officials said.

Oleksander Prokudin, governor of southern Kherson region, said three people were killed by explosions in fields caused by mines and other devices left behind by Russian troops who abandoned much of the region last November.

Mines sown by Russian forces remain a fundamental problem both in areas still held by Moscow or retaken by Kyiv's forces.

Russian shelling killed a 45-year-old civilian man in the northeast town of Kupiansk, local officials said, as Moscow's forces try to advance in the area.

Russia seized Kupiansk in the northeastern Kharkiv region soon after the February 2022 invasion, but Ukrainian forces recaptured the town last September. It is now under daily fire.

Some residents remain in the town, but regional authorities have ordered a mandatory evacuation of civilians from near the Kupiansk front because of the difficult situation.

Regional governor Oleh Synehubov said the man killed on Tuesday was a guard at a meat processing plant. The prosecutor general's office said a 67-year-old man had also been hurt.

Kupiansk was home to about 27,000 people before the war and is a rail hub about 100 km (60 miles) east of the regional capital, Kharkiv. Losing the town a second time would be a considerable blow to Kyiv's battlefield momentum.

Reuters could not verify the situation in the town, or reports of fighting elsewhere.

Ukrainian troops began a counteroffensive in the east and south in early June but have made slow progress through Russian minefields and trenches blocking their southern push, intended to reach the Sea of Azov and split Russian forces.

General Oleksander Tarnavskyi, commander of forces in Ukraine's Tavria, or southern, front, reported progress in the push southward.

"We have made an advance in the Tavria district," Tarnavskyi reported on Telegram. "We are pushing out the enemy."

A military spokesperson also said Ukrainian forces were moving southward in the region of Zaporizhzhia after recapturing Robotyne, the latest of a cluster of settlements and villages it say it has taken back in recent weeks.

Kyiv also said its troops had had some "success" near the village of Verbove in the region, but gave no details.

But officials said over 50 children and some vulnerable family members were being evacuated from five settlements in the region because of "the difficult security situation".

Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Maliar said fighting was heavy in various sectors, but Ukrainian forces were making progress around the Russian-occupied city of Bakhmut in the east.

Russian officials had said Moscow's forces are holding their ground in Bakhmut, and have not confirmed the loss of Robotyne.

(Reporting by Anna Pruchnicka; Editing by Timothy Heritage and Ron Popeski)