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Ukraine says it has recaptured strategic village near Bakhmut

The Ukrainian army announced on Sunday that it had recaptured the small village of Klishchiivka, the second settlement to return to Kiev’s control in three days and the biggest recent advance in its bitterly fought counter-offensive to drive Russian forces from the east from the country.

Klishchiivka had been occupied by Russian forces since January, when Wagner’s mercenaries captured it after weeks of fighting in the nearly year-long battle for the nearby town of Bakhmut.

After Bakhmut fell to Russian troops in May, Ukrainian forces almost immediately launched an offensive to drive Moscow’s troops from areas north and south of the city. With Klishchiivka sitting on high ground overlooking the roads leading in and out of a ruined Bakhmut, the village was very much in their crosshairs.

In recent weeks, kyiv troops have advanced slowly towards Klishchiivka, suffering heavy losses in fierce fighting.

On Friday, the Ukrainian military said its forces had taken control of Andriivka, a small agricultural hamlet just over three kilometers to the south. Then on Sunday evening, the 80th Separate Airborne Assault Brigade released video of soldiers waving Ukraine’s yellow and blue flag in front of a ruined building and a destroyed church while loud booms echoed in the background.

“The settlement of Klishchiivka has finally been liberated,” reads the video caption on Facebook, crediting its own fighters and those of two other brigades.

General Oleksandr Syrsky, commander of Ukraine’s ground forces, quickly announced the news, writing on Telegram that Klishchiivka had been “cleared of Russians,” and in his nightly speech, President Volodymyr Zelensky » congratulated the soldiers.

“Klishchiivka!” Well done!” he said.

There was no immediate comment from the Russian Defense Ministry, which only mentioned the fighting near Klishchiivka in a Sunday evening update, and those claims could not immediately be confirmed independently.

Retaking Klishchiivka could help Ukraine put pressure on Russian forces holding Bakhmut, which Moscow has devoted resources to defending even as it is reduced to rubble. Klishchiivka, about six miles south of the town, occupies a commanding position that could allow Ukrainian artillery to more accurately bombard Russian forces entering or leaving Bakhmut.

Russian forces’ conquest of Bakhmut, once home to 70,000 people, was their first major battlefield victory in months. But the city sits in a trough that puts Russian defenders in an increasingly perilous position as Ukrainian troops slowly retake territory on its outskirts.

The assertion of a new advance in the east came amid signs that Ukraine may be able to open an alternative route for grain shipments in the face of Russia’s de facto blockade of its ports . On Sunday, the first cargo ships to arrive at a Ukrainian port since July, when Russia ended a deal allowing kyiv to export food crops across the Black Sea, were docked in Chornomorsk.

Ukraine’s grain exports are both a vital source of foreign exchange for the country and a crucial factor in global food markets, particularly for countries in Africa and the Middle East facing hunger. But establishing a sufficiently secure corridor for a regular flow of cargo ships from Ukraine’s seaports is risky, particularly because the Black Sea has become an increasingly critical theater of war.

The two ships docked in Chornomorsk – the bulk carrier Aroyat and the cargo ship Resilient Africa – are expected to be loaded with around 22,000 tonnes of wheat destined for countries in Africa and Asia, Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said . said saturday.

“The first civilian ships are using the temporary corridor to reach Ukrainian ports,” Mr. Kubrakov wrote. “The ships fly the flag of Palau and are crewed by citizens of Turkey, Azerbaijan, Egypt and Ukraine.”

It was unclear when the ships would leave Chornomorsk.

The two ships sailed along the coast once they entered Ukrainian waters on Saturday, according to data from the Marine Traffic website. Resilient Africa departed from the Romanian port of Constanta, while Aroyat departed from a Turkish port.

Highlighting the risks, Russia launched a drone and missile attack on the Odessa region in southern Ukraine on Sunday morning. Granary and agricultural land north of the port city of Odessa were hit, according to Oleh Kiper, head of the regional military administration.

Russia has repeatedly launched missiles and drones at grain facilities and the port of Odessa since leaving the Black Sea Grain Initiative, a deal brokered by Turkey and the United Nations that had established for a year a corridor through which Ukraine could ship wheat, barley and wheat. other cultures. This agreement allowed Ukrainian ships to directly cross the Black Sea from Odessa and two neighboring ports to the Bosphorus off the coast of Turkey.

Russia has also hit Ukraine’s Danube ports at Izmail and Reni, which are increasingly used as an alternative to the main Black Sea ports.

In addition to abrogating the grain deal, Russia said in July it would consider any ship entering a Ukrainian port as possibly carrying military cargo, in a clear warning to civilian vessels. Last month, a Russian patrol boat fired warning shots at a civilian ship on the Black Sea, then boarded it to conduct an inspection.

Thomas Gibbons Neff reports contributed.

nytimes Eur

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