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Russia deals symbolic blow to Ukraine with village capture

By AFP

May 22, 2024 11:14 PM


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Russia said Wednesday that its forces had retaken Klishchiivka, one of a handful of villages on the eastern front that Ukraine took control of in a lacklustre counteroffensive last summer.

Russian forces in recent weeks have made their biggest territorial gains in the war-battered east in the last 18 months as Ukraine waits for desperately needed US and European weapon supplies.

Klishchiivka lies in the industrial Donetsk territory in the east that the Kremlin claimed to have annexed in late 2022 even as its forces were struggling at great cost to gain ground there.

The Ukrainian army has come under intense pressure in the past two weeks, fighting off a new ground offensive in the Kharkiv region and further stretching their critically short supplies of soldiers and ammunition.

"Units of the Southern grouping of troops liberated the village of Klishchiivka" in the Donetsk region, the Russian defence ministry said.

Russian troops first captured Klishchiivka in January 2023, but Ukraine clawed it back in September at the end of its mostly unsuccessful counteroffensive.

Klishchiivka is just south of the destroyed front-line city of Bakhmut, now held by Russia. Before the conflict it had a population of about 500 people.

Ukraine did not immediately comment on the Russian claims but President Volodymyr Zelensky warned in an evening address Tuesday that fighting on the front line was "extremely difficult".

  Fatal attacks 

 Russia's gains since launching its ground assault in Ukraine's northeast has forced Kyiv's stretched army to rush in resources and troops from elsewhere.

A Russian drone attack killed a Ukrainian police officer who was evacuating civilians from the front-line village of Vovchansk, Ukraine's Interior Minister Igor Klymenko said.

"The occupiers hit the evacuation vehicle with an FPV (first-person view) drone. The two officers in the car were on their way to rescue civilians," Klymenko said in a Telegram post.

On Monday, Russia said it had captured the coveted Ukrainian stronghold of Bilogorivka, paving the way for it to fully control the eastern Lugansk region.

Klishchiivka's capture came as Ukrainian officials said Russian forces had attacked the city of Kharkiv -- Ukraine's second-largest urban hub -- with artillery, injuring at least 12.

Russia meanwhile said Ukraine had launched deadly strikes on its border region of Belgorod and on the occupied eastern Ukraine city of Lysychansk.

Belgorod sits directly across the border from Ukraine's northeast Kharkiv region, where Russia launched its major ground assault on May 10.

"Several air targets were shot down as they approached the village of Belenkoye. To our great sorrow, one civilian was killed," Belgorod regional governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said.

One civilian was injured, while a Ukrainian aerial attack near the town of Shebekino, close to the border, injured another, he said.

The Kremlin has said its new Kharkiv offensive is aimed at creating a "security zone" to prevent future Ukrainian attacks on its border region.

Separately, Russian proxy officials said Ukraine had shelled Lysychansk in the eastern Lugansk region, leaving "one dead and two wounded".

Lysychansk, close to the eastern front, was captured by Russian forces in mid-2022.

Officials at the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine also accused Kyiv's forces of launching a drone at the facility.

It said the device hit a transport workshop but there were "no casualties or critical damage".


AFP


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