Ukraine says ousted Russian forces near Bakhmut and in south

AFP , Monday 14 Aug 2023

The Ukrainian military on Monday said it had pushed Russian forces out of pockets of territory along front lines in the east and south of the country, building on a gruelling counter-offensive launched two months ago.

 Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, left, listens to servicemen during his visit to the headqu
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, left, listens to servicemen during his visit to the headquarters of brigades at the front line near Soledar, Donetsk region, Ukraine, Monday, Aug. 14, 2023. AP


The gains -- announced by Ukraine's deputy defence minister -- came as Russia claimed its forces had progressed in the eastern Kharkiv region, undermining Kyiv's highly anticipated campaign.

Ukraine kicked off its counter-offensive against Russian forces in June after building up assault battalions and stockpiling Western-donated weapons.

But Kyiv has acknowledged that movement against heavily fortified Russian positions has been slow and said it had gained only a clutch of land around the war-battered city of Bakhmut last week.

"In the Bakhmut sector, three square kilometres (1.2 square miles) were liberated last week," Deputy Defence Minister Ganna Malyar told state television, adding that Ukrainian forces had clawed back 40 square kilometres there since June.

She said that Ukrainian forces had been diverted from offensive operations around the city -- captured by Russian forces in May -- citing building Russian pressure in the Kharkiv region.

"It was important for the enemy to divert our forces in other directions, so we could not concentrate our forces for the offensive in the Bakhmut sector," Malyar said.

Zelensky in the east

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he visited troops in the east and "discussed with the brigade commander problems faced by the warriors."

Ukrainian forces have also been pressing against deeply entrenched Russian forces in the south of the country, in two regions the Kremlin said it had annexed last year.

Malyar said Kyiv's army had made gains in two villages on the southern front but also confirmed Ukrainian troops had conducted "certain tasks" on the left bank of the Dnipro river in the Kherson region.

The river was rendered the de facto front line between Ukrainian and Russian forces in the region after Kyiv recaptured the territory's main city, also called Kherson, in November.

In its latest intelligence update, the British defence ministry noted "an uptick in small-scale combat" along the lower Dnipro river, where it said Ukrainian forces were attempting to conduct raids and set up new bridgeheads.

Ukraine has urged its Western allies to ramp up arms deliveries, including long-range missiles and F-16 fighter jets to speed up its offensive.

That was the message Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko said he took to his meeting with Germany's Finance Minister Christian Lindner, who arrived in Kyiv on Monday.

Child's funeral

Russia is pursuing its air strikes campaign, saying it targets military facilities, but civilian infrastructure is often hit.

On Monday, residents of the western region of Ivano-Frankivsk attended the burial ceremony of 8-year-old Volodymyr Balabanyk.

Tearful family members huddled around the white-draped coffin of the child, who died when a missile targeting a nearby airfield hit his home.

And overnight, Russian missiles and drones aimed at the port of Odesa.

All eight Kalibr cruise missiles and 23 drones were shot down, the defence ministry said on social media, but debris damaged a student dormitory and a supermarket.

Russia and Ukraine have stepped up attacks in the Black Sea since Moscow exited a deal last month that had granted Kyiv's grain exports safe passage during the conflict.

Since withdrawing from the agreement, Moscow has pounded ports in the Odesa region that were key for Ukrainian grain exports under the deal.

The overnight attacks come a day after Moscow said warning shots were fired from a Russian warship at a cargo vessel heading towards Izmail, a city on the Danube river in Odesa.

The Russian ship spotted the Sukru Okan cargo vessel sailing under the flag of Palau and fired the shots after its captain did not respond to demands to stop.

After inspection, the cargo ship was allowed to continue its journey.

"These actions exemplified Russia's deliberate policy of endangering the freedom of navigation and safety of commercial shipping in the Black Sea," Ukraine's foreign ministry said on Monday, accusing Moscow of breaching United Nations accords and norms of international law.

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