July 21. 2024. 6:45

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Warlord says Russia is gaining ground, as Ukraine claims it is inflicting heaviest losses of war so far

More deadly shelling hit eastern Ukraine as a Russian warlord claimed that his forces were gaining ground in the region, but Kyiv said Moscow’s troops were suffering heavy losses as they struggled to launch a new offensive nearly a year into their all-out invasion.

Ukrainian officials said one civilian was killed by artillery fire in the Dnipro river city of Nikopol and another in the frontline town of Bakhmut, and about a dozen were hurt in strikes on the cities of Kharkiv and Kherson and across the partly occupied Donetsk region.

Kyiv and its western allies say Russia is massing forces for a new offensive, probably in eastern and southern Ukraine, and some Ukrainian officials say it has already begun in the Kreminna area of the eastern Luhansk region, where fighting has intensified in recent days.

“In the Kreminna direction, the Russians suffered significant losses and retreated,” Serhiy Haidai, Ukrainian governor of the partly occupied Luhansk region, said on Sunday.

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“For several days in a row, the [Russians] attacked our positions in both the Kreminna area and the Bilohorivka area. Our defenders responded by routing the enemy ... [who] have retreated to replenish their units.

[ Irish volunteers bring medicine and feed for hundreds of Kyiv’s horses ]

Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine’s national security and defence council, said Russia was “having big problems with its big offensive”.

“They have already started their offensive, they just don’t say that they have started it, and our troops are repelling it very powerfully. The attack that they were planning is already gradually under way. But it is not the [successful] attack that they were counting on.”

In its latest intelligence update on the war, the British ministry of defence cited Ukrainian claims that Russian forces suffered an average of 824 casualties per day over the past week – the highest such rate of the war. The figures cannot be verified, however, and Moscow also claims that Kyiv’s military is suffering extremely heavy losses.

Russian troops occupied parts of eastern and southern Ukraine after launching a full-scale invasion of the country on February 24th, but in subsequent months they were forced to retreat from outside Kyiv and Ukraine’s second city Kharkiv, and were then expelled from Kherson, the only provincial capital that they seized last year.

Moscow’s military has focused in recent weeks on overrunning Bakhmut and the town of Vuhledar in Donetsk region, but despite repeated Russian claims that success was imminent, both towns are still in Ukrainian hands.

[ Russia claims ‘massive strike’ on Ukrainian energy facilities ]

Russian nationalist bloggers, some of whom have close ties to the military and the notorious Wagner mercenary group, despaired last week at the appearance of footage that appeared to show Russian troops abandoning dozens of armoured vehicles – some of which were damaged – near Vuhledar after Ukrainian artillery strikes.

“Thirty-one armoured vehicles of the 155th Separate Guards Marine Brigade from the Russian Pacific Fleet were destroyed during an assault on Vuhledar,” wrote a military blogger called Moscow Calling.

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder of the powerful Wagner group, claimed on Sunday that its fighters had taken control of village of Krasna Hora, just north of Bakhmut, and that no other Russian forces were within a radius of about 50km of the ruined city.

Ukrainian defence minister Oleksiy Reznikov said he spoke to US defence secretary Lloyd Austin about “the situation on the frontline and priorities for the next Ramstein,” referring to the US base in Germany where officials from dozens of Kyiv’s allies will meet on Tuesday to discuss its weapons needs.

After long deliberation, western powers have finally agreed to supply modern tanks to Ukraine, but they have not met its request for warplanes and long-range missiles.