Vladimir Putin at a working meeting in Moscow last week

Russian forces are gearing up for an all-out ground offensive on the east of Ukraine – but defenders are targeting ammunition depots to hamper their plans.

Ukrainians today launched a massive rocket strike on a Russian cache close to the Black Sea port of Kherson, which is occupied by invaders.

The defenders’ action in Nova Kakhova in the south was part of Ukraine’s counter-offensive intended to smash Moscow’s stranglehold on its Black Sea ports and free up its maritime trade.

Moscow’s commanders have diverted many troops from the south to the east to join in the drive for the Donbas region of Ukraine.

But repeated hits on Moscow’s ammo stores may mean Russian forces have to delay their drive to take over the area.

The attack on the ammunition store was made possible by a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System sent by the US.

Ukraine has recently been sent eight of the HIMARS rocket systems.

Using them, Ukrainian troops can attack invaders from 70 miles away.

More long-range weaponry from NATO countries is on its way. The depot attack came as the death toll from Russia ’s weekend missile strike on a Donetsk apartment block rose to 41.

There was a nationwide alert that Russia is increasing attacks on civilian targets. Nine other civilians were killed and two more wounded in Donetsk, the southern half of the Donbas region.

Russian rocket attacks targeted the cities of Sloviansk and Toretsk, where a nursery was hit, the Kyiv presidential office said. The British military said today that Russia was continuing to make “small, incremental gains” in Donetsk.

Heavy fighting there last week led to the province’s governor urging 350,000 remaining residents to flee.

In Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, Russian strikes hit residential buildings, killing four civilians and wounding nine, local officials said.

Ukrainian authorities also said that Russian fire hit residential buildings in the southern city of Mykolaiv this morning, wounding 12.

Rockets hit two medical facilities, regional governor Vitaliy Kim said.

Today air raid sirens sounded in Lviv in the west and in other areas as Russian forces continued to advance.