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Ukraine says eight villages retaken from Russian forces

Kyiv, Ukraine

Ukraine said on Monday it had driven Russian forces out of an eighth village in its two-week-old counter-offensive, a settlement on a heavily fortified part of the front line near the most direct route to the country’s Azov Sea coast.

Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Maliar said Ukrainian forces had retaken Piatykhatky and advanced by up to seven kilometres into Russian lines in two weeks, capturing 113 square kilometres of land.

“In the course of two weeks of offensive operations in the Berdiansk and Melitopol directions, eight settlements were liberated,” Maliar said on the Telegram messaging app, referring to two cities on the Russian-occupied coastline.

A Ukrainian serviceman is seen in a shelter, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, at the front line in Donetsk region, Ukraine, on 18th June, 2023.

A Ukrainian serviceman is seen in a shelter, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, at the front line in Donetsk region, Ukraine on 18th June, 2023. PICTURE: Reuters/Anna Kudriavtseva

In a later statement she said Russia had concentrated its units in the east, including air assault troops, but that Ukrainian forces were preventing their advance.

Two slick videos released on Telegram by the Ukrainian armed forces showed what they said were attacks and advances by their forces in recapturing the village of Piatykhatky, including several strikes on Russian positions and a convoy. The video shows thick smoke rising from the area. Columns of Ukrainian armoured vehicles are seen advancing down a country road.

The video concludes with soldiers of the 128th separate assault brigade standing in front of a colonnaded building with Ukrainian flags and saying they have liberated the village.

“Today, 18th June forces of the 128th brigade liberated the village of Piatykhatky…The Russians have fled, leaving equipment, weapons and ammunition behind.”

Reuters was able to confirm the location of the video but could not independently verify the date.

The General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces wrote on Facebook that anti-aircraft units had shot down four cruise missiles and four Iranian-made drones in the last 24 hours. 

It said Russia had shelled more than a dozen towns and villages in the Zaporizhzhia region, including Piatykhatky.

Reuters could not verify the battlefield claims.

Incremental gains
The reported capture of the villages reflects the incremental nature of the gains so far for Ukraine along lines Moscow has spent months strengthening. 

Piatykhatky is significant, however, as it lies around 90 kilometres from the coast.

Ukrainian servicemen fire a M119 howitzer towards Russian troops at a position near a frontline, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Donetsk region, Ukraine, on 19th June, 2023

Ukrainian servicemen fire a M119 howitzer towards Russian troops at a position near a frontline, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in Donetsk region, Ukraine, on 19th June, 2023. PICTURE: Reuters/Oleksandr Ratushniak

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy hailed the efforts of the troops and said he would continue talks with Western allies to get weapons and ammunition supplies to them as soon as possible.

Russia, hoping to dent Western resolve, said it had repelled numerous assaults and it released a video showing what its troops say is captured Western equipment, in this case a French-made tank reportedly seized in the eastern Donetsk region. It did not mention Piatykhatky.

Ukraine has acknowledged attacks along several parts of the 1,000-kilometre-long front line in its long-anticipated counter-offensive to retake the 18 per cent of its territory occupied by Russia, but carefully controls information for security reasons. Analysts say the main phase of the counteroffensive is yet to begin.

Both sides appear to have taken heavy losses in recent fighting and both say the other side’s are greater.

Ukraine has prepared an array of new military units for the counter-offensive, while its established brigades weathered Russia’s winter offensive in the east.

Separately, Ukraine Deputy Minister for Strategic Industries Sergiy Boyev told Reuters at the Paris Airshow on Monday that Ukraine is in talks with Western arms manufacturers to boost output of weapons, including drones, and possibly even in Ukraine.

The conflict has killed thousands of civilians, destroyed towns and cities and driven millions of people from their homes while exacerbating global inflation and reshaping security arrangements.

Russia says it invaded Ukraine to “denazify” it, an argument Ukraine and its Western allies call a pretext for a land grab.

Legislators in Sweden, which applied to join NATO last year following the invasion, said on Monday Russia was now seen as a posing a long-term threat to both European and global security.

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Officials from two NATO member states said Moscow was redeploying some of its forces as it seeks to predict where Ukraine will strike.

British and Estonian intelligence officials said that Russia had been moving some forces east along the front line from areas south of the Dnipro river flooded by the destruction of the huge Kakhovka hydroelectric dam on 6th June.

Russia and Ukraine have blamed each other for the unleashing of the vast reservoir. Flooding has destroyed homes and farmland along both sides of the front line in Kherson region. The death toll has risen to 52, with more than 11,000 people evacuated.

A team of legal experts helping Ukraine investigate said on Friday it was “highly likely” that the dam’s collapse was caused by explosives planted by Russians.

The flooding has made any cross-river attack in the area exceedingly difficult, Michael Kofman, a military analyst, wrote on Twitter, although it would always have been a risky operation.

The United Nations said on Sunday that Moscow had declined its help to assist residents affected by the breach, while the Kremlin said its decision was motivated by security concerns and “other nuances”.

– Additional reporting by DAN PELESCHUK and RON POPESKI; JOANNA PLUCINSKA and VALERIE INSINNA in Paris, France


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