The Manila Times

Kyiv claims gains on south front and near Bakhmut

KYIV: Ukraine said on Monday its forces had recaptured small clutches of land from Russian forces along the southern front and near the war-battered city of Bakhmut, areas where Kyiv’s troops have focused their slow-moving counteroffensive.

Kyiv launched its bid to wrest back territory controlled by Moscow in June after stockpiling Western-supplied weapons and recruiting assault battalions.

Its efforts have focused on Bakhmut, in the eastern Donetsk region, as well as several points along the frontline in the south, toward the Crimean Peninsula.

“Two square kilometers (0.77 square miles) were liberated in the Bakhmut sector,” Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar said on state media.

Her announcement came a day after Kyiv said its forces had retaken Klishchiivka, a village south of Bakhmut, which was captured by Russian forces in May after one of the longest and bloodiest battles of the war.

Ukrainian forces have also clawed back 5.2 sq.m. in the south, where they are working to push deeper at two points along the front.

But Ukraine’s progress against entrenched Russian positions has been limited since June, spurring debate among Kyiv’s Western allies over its military strategy.

Russian forces, meanwhile, have pursued their aerial bombardment campaign, targeting Ukraine’s southern regions and maritime export hubs in particular.

Ukraine said on Monday its air defense systems had shot down a swarm of attack drones and nearly 20 cruise missiles in Russia’s latest aerial barrage overnight.

“A total of 24 strike UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) were recorded around the Mykolaiv and Odesa regions. Eighteen attack drones were shot down by air defense units,” Kyiv’s air force said on social media.

It added that its forces had shot down all 17 cruise missiles fired by Russian forces overnight.

Kyiv also renewed its aerial attacks on Russia. Moscow said it repelled Ukrainian drones over outer Moscow and two border regions, as well as over several parts of Crimea.

Crimea, which Moscow annexed from Ukraine in 2014, has been targeted throughout the war but attacks there have intensified as Kyiv vows to recapture the Black Sea peninsula.

And since Ukraine launched its counteroffensive, Russia has weathered waves of drone attacks that have damaged buildings, including those in the capital Moscow.

But Russian officials have downplayed their significance.

“Drones were intercepted over the western, southwestern, northwestern and eastern parts of the Crimean Peninsula; Istra and Domodedovo districts of Moscow region; [and] Belgorod and Voronezh regions,” Moscow’s Defense Ministry said.

Kyiv announced the territorial gains as Beijing said China’s top diplomat Wang Yi would begin a four-day visit to Russia for security talks on Monday.

China and Russia are strategic allies, with both countries frequently touting their “no limits” partnership and economic and military cooperation.

China’s Foreign Ministry said Wang would hold security consultations at the invitation of Nikolai Patrushev, secretary of Russia’s Security Council.

The visit was due a day after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un left Russia following a rare six-day trip, which appeared to solidify his country’s ties with President Vladimir Putin and fanned Western fears Pyongyang could provide Moscow with weapons.

A top United Nations expert, meanwhile, warned that respect for human rights inside Russia had substantially worsened since Moscow launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022.

“The situation of human rights in the Russian Federation has significantly deteriorated since its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022,” UN Special Rapporteur Mariana Katzarova said in her first report on Russia.

Russia has criminalized criticism of the military, and law enforcement officials have detained thousands for protesting or speaking out against the invasion.

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The Manila Times