Kyiv, Ukraine (AP) – Ukraine’s military said Monday it had repelled more than a dozen Russian attacks in the east and north of the country, including attempts to advance on key cities in the eastern industrial heartland known as Donbass.
In its regular Facebook update, the military general staff said Russian troops had attempted to advance on Kramatorsk, one of two major cities in eastern Donetsk province that are still under Ukrainian control, but “they have failed utterly and become chaotic.” withdrawn to their previous positions”.
In the same post, the military said Russian forces had launched an unsuccessful attack on Bakhmut, a strategic city in the Donetsk region whose capture would pave the way for Russia to take Kramatorsk and Sloviansk, the de facto Ukrainian administrative capital.
The Donetsk region is one of two provinces that make up the Donbass, where fighting has largely focused in recent months since Kremlin forces withdrew from around the capital Kyiv.
Russian officials earlier last month announced the full seizure of the Luhansk region, the second of the two, despite repeated claims from Ukraine’s governor that Kiev’s forces are holding out in a small area near the regional border.
In the same update, the military claimed that Russia tried and failed to breach Ukraine’s defenses in the northern Kharkiv region, home to Ukraine’s second-largest city, but was “hit hard and thrown back”.
Meanwhile, Russia’s FSB, the main successor agency to the KGB, said it foiled a “sabotage and terrorist attack” on an oil pipeline in Russia’s southern Volgograd region, which it blamed on two Russian citizens colluding with Ukrainian security forces.
The claims could not be immediately verified.
Elsewhere on Monday, Russian and Ukrainian officials exchanged more allegations about renewed shelling of the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant, with each side claiming the other was responsible for the attacks that have fueled fears of a catastrophe.
The press office of the Kremlin-backed administration in Enerhodar, the Russian-controlled city where the plant is located, told the Interfax agency that Ukrainian forces carried out “massive shelling” of the plant and residential and industrial areas of Enerhodar.
According to the statement, the shelling came from nearby Nikopol, a Ukrainian-held town across the Dnieper River from the plant.
The mayor of Nikopol later said that the Russians themselves shelled Enerhodar.
Mayor Yevhen Yevtushenko and other city authorities in Nikopol have repeatedly accused Russian troops stationed at the factory of shelling the city, knowing Ukrainian forces there are unlikely to fire back.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy renewed his call for new sanctions against Moscow and its nuclear industry in response to the situation. He described the actions of Russian forces there as “nuclear blackmail” that could embolden malicious actors worldwide.
At least three Ukrainian civilians were killed and 20 others injured as Russian forces continued their artillery barrage into Ukraine, Ukrainian officials said.
The deaths and 13 of the wounded were attributed to Russian shelling that hit towns and villages in the Donetsk region, regional officials said.
In Kharkiv, the country’s second-largest city, seven civilians were injured by Russian shelling that hit residential buildings and an area near a bus station. Kharkiv Governor Oleh Synyehubov said among the wounded was an 80-year-old woman.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Lieutenant General Igor Konashenkov said Monday that Russian warplanes hit positions of the Ukrainian army in the southern Kherson region and Donetsk region. He added that the Russian Air Force also hit a facility in the Kharkiv region, killing at least 100 and wounding 50 “mercenaries” from Poland and Germany. His claims could not be independently verified.
Opening an arms exhibition outside Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin saluted the military, which he said will “liberate Donbass step by step.”
He also vowed to expand arms sales to Russian allies, whom he commended for continuing to give strong support to Moscow in the face of Western pressure.
For its part, the Ukrainian military claimed to have destroyed more than ten Russian warehouses with ammunition and military equipment in the past week.
In other developments Monday:
– Lawyers for American basketball star Brittney Griner appealed her nine-year Russian prison sentence for drug possession, Russian news agencies reported. Griner, a Phoenix Mercury center and two-time Olympic gold medalist, was sentenced Aug. 4. She was arrested at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport in February after vape canisters containing cannabis oil were found in her luggage.
— The Ukrainian parliament extended martial law and general mobilization in the country for another 90 days.
— Zelenskyy dismissed the heads of three regional branches of the Supreme Security Agency of Ukraine, SBU, in Kyiv, Lviv and Tarnopil regions. Zelenskyy’s office did not provide any information on the reasons for the move. Last month he sacked SBU chief Ivan Bakanov and a senior prosecutor on the grounds that their departments had too many people accused of collaborating with the Russians.
– The trial of five European men captured in eastern Ukraine has begun in a court administered by Kremlin-backed separatists, Russian media reported.
Three of the five – a Swede, a Croat and a Briton – could face the death penalty under the laws of the self-proclaimed unrecognized Donetsk People’s Republic, Russia, for serving as mercenaries and undergoing “training to seize power.” “. State media reported.
The remaining two, both British, face prison terms.
– A British military reconnaissance plane has violated Russia’s airspace, the Russian Defense Ministry said.
The ministry said in a statement that Russian air defense forces in Russia’s arctic northwest spotted the plane en route to the border from the direction of the Barents Sea. A Russian fighter identified the plane as a British Air Force RC-135 and forced it out of Russian territory, the ministry said.
– Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Berlin will not support several other European countries that have called for an EU-wide move to stop issuing tourist visas to Russian citizens.
The nations supporting such a ban say Russians should not be able to vacation in Europe while Moscow is waging war in Ukraine. Finland and Denmark want an EU decision, and some EU countries bordering Russia are no longer issuing visas to Russians.
“This is not the war of the Russian people. It is (Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s war and we need to make this issue very clear,” Scholz said.
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