Heavy battles on frontline after counteroffensive gains, says Kyiv

Ukraine’s top military command said on Monday that its forces were engaged in heavy battles in frontline hotspots, a day after Kyiv said it had made the first modest gains in reclaiming territory from Russia in its counteroffensive.

Twenty-five battles had taken place over the past day near the eastern town of Bakhmut and further south near Avdiivka and Maryinka, all in the Donetsk region, but also near Bilohorivka in the Luhansk region, Ukraine’s armed forces general staff said.

Reuters also reported that Ukraine had said on Sunday that its troops had made advances on three villages in Donetsk: Blahodatne, Neskuchne and Makarivka.

Ukrainian troops ride an M113 armoured personnel carrier near Bakhmut
Ukrainian troops ride an M113 armoured personnel carrier near Bakhmut. Photograph: Viacheslav Ratynskyi/Reuters

The claims could not be independently verified and there was no immediate comment from Russian officials.

Some prominent Russian military bloggers indicated that while Ukrainian forces took Blahodatne and Neskuchne, fighting for Makarivka was going on.

Key events

Ukraine has issued this video which shows footage from the liberation of Storozheve.

Ukraine announces it has recaptured village of Storozheve

Julian Borger

Julian Borger

Ukraine’s deputy defence minister, Hanna Maliar, has announced the liberation of Storozheve by Ukrainian marines on her Telegram channel.

It is a really tiny place, a hamlet, across the Mokri Yaly river from Blahodatne, which was recaptured over the weekend. She wrote:

The national flag is flying over Storozheve again, and it will be the same with every settlement until we liberate all Ukrainian land. Thank you Rear Adm Mykhailo Ostrogradskyi, 35th Separate Brigade of Marines.

To be continued …

Glory to Ukraine!

According to Russian military bloggers, the battle is on now for Urozhaine to the south, as the Ukrainians fight their way village to village, on both sides of the river. Ukrainian officials say the Russians blew up a small dam on the Mokri Yaly upstream, in an effort to hinder the offensive.

Suspilne, Ukraine’s state broadcaster, reports that a 50-year-old woman was injured as a result of shelling by the Russian military in the village of Novoselivka, in Zaporizhzhia region. It cited the local authority as the source of the information.

My colleague, Dan Sabbagh, has described the latest developments as “incremental, but real progress” for Ukraine, while posting an image which purports to show the liberation of the village of Storozheve.

Another Ukrainian village liberation video, S of Velyka Novosilka. This time Storozheve, also S of Neskuchne and W of Blahodatne, both formally claimed yesterday. This time its the 35th marine brigade (joining 68th + 129th in the area).

Incremental, but real progress https://t.co/EsFQANANrq

— Dan Sabbagh (@dansabbagh) June 12, 2023

Ukrainian forces gained territory over the weekend while carrying out counteroffensive operations in at least three areas of the frontline, the Institute for the Study of War has said.

The US thinktank said Ukrainian forces had made “visually verified advances” in the Donetsk and Zaporizhia regions and that Russian sources “confirmed but sought to downplay” those advances.

The institute said in its update that Kyiv had reported that Ukrainian forces were conducting offensive operations in the Bakhmut area and that Russian sources had reported continued Ukrainian ground attacks on the northern and southern flanks of the city, in the Donetsk region.

Geolocated footage and Russian sources indicated that Ukrainian forces liberated multiple settlements during continued ground attacks south, southwest and southeast of Velyka Novosilka in western Donetsk oblast.

The institute quoted the Ukrainian deputy defence minister, Hanna Malyar, as saying Russian forces were transferring their most combat-capable units from the Kherson direction towards the Bakhmut and Zaporizhia areas.

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Ukrainian soldiers prepare to fire a rocket-propelled grenade at Russian positions near Bakhmut on Monday
Ukrainian soldiers prepare to fire a rocket-propelled grenade at Russian positions near Bakhmut on Monday. Photograph: Libkos/AP

Heavy battles on frontline after counteroffensive gains, says Kyiv

Ukraine’s top military command said on Monday that its forces were engaged in heavy battles in frontline hotspots, a day after Kyiv said it had made the first modest gains in reclaiming territory from Russia in its counteroffensive.

Twenty-five battles had taken place over the past day near the eastern town of Bakhmut and further south near Avdiivka and Maryinka, all in the Donetsk region, but also near Bilohorivka in the Luhansk region, Ukraine’s armed forces general staff said.

Reuters also reported that Ukraine had said on Sunday that its troops had made advances on three villages in Donetsk: Blahodatne, Neskuchne and Makarivka.

Ukrainian troops ride an M113 armoured personnel carrier near Bakhmut
Ukrainian troops ride an M113 armoured personnel carrier near Bakhmut. Photograph: Viacheslav Ratynskyi/Reuters

The claims could not be independently verified and there was no immediate comment from Russian officials.

Some prominent Russian military bloggers indicated that while Ukrainian forces took Blahodatne and Neskuchne, fighting for Makarivka was going on.

ICC investigation of Kakhovka dam disaster has begun, says Zelenskiy

Work has already started in an investigation by the international criminal court over the breach of the Kakhovka dam in Ukraine and the vast flood it triggered, Volodymyr Zelenskiy has said.

In his nightly video address on Sunday, the Ukrainian president said representatives of the court had visited the Kherson region in recent days.

He said:

On the very first day after the disaster, the general prosecutor’s office sent a corresponding request to the international criminal court concerning an investigation of this disaster and the work has already begun.

Flooding in Kherson on Saturday
Flooding in Kherson on Saturday. Photograph: Roman Pilipey/Getty Images

Zelenskiy said it was important that international legal experts saw the aftermath of the disaster, including incidents of shelling of flooded areas.

Officials said three people were killed on Sunday in Russian shelling of boats carrying evacuees.

Zelenskiy said Ukrainian rescue teams had evacuated about 4,000 residents from affected zones, including areas on the Russian-occupied east bank of the Dnipro River.

Ukraine getting first ‘localised’ results of counteroffensive, says Kyiv

Ukraine has said its troops have recaptured three villages from Russian forces in its south-east, the first liberated settlements it has reported since launching a counteroffensive last week.

Kyiv’s forces posted unverified videos showing soldiers hoisting the Ukrainian flag at a bombed-out building in the village of Blahodatne, in the Donetsk region, and posing with their unit’s flag in the adjacent village of Neskuchne, Reuters reported.

Valeryi Shershen, a spokesperson for Ukraine’s “Tavria” military sector, said on television on Sunday:

We’re seeing the first results of the counteroffensive actions, localised results.

Ukraine’s army also retook Makarivka, the next village to the south, and advanced between 300 and 1,500 metres in two directions on the southern front, the deputy defence minister, Hanna Maliar, said in a statement.

She added:

No positions were lost on the directions where our forces are on the defensive.

Ukrainian soldiers place a Ukrainian flag in a building in Blahodatne village
Ukrainian soldiers place a national flag in a building in Blahodatne village.
Photograph: 68th Separate hunting brigade ‘Oleksy Dovbusha’/Reuters

The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, said on Friday that a Ukrainian military push was well under way but that it had failed so far to breach Russian defensive lines and had taken heavy casualties.

Kyiv officials have imposed a strict period of operational silence and urged Ukrainians not to disclose any information that could compromise the operation.

Opening summary

Welcome back to our live coverage of Russia’s war in Ukraine. I’m Adam Fulton and here’s a roundup of the latest developments to bring you up to speed.

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Ukraine says it is seeing the first results of its counteroffensive and that its forces have recaptured three villages from Russia in south-eastern Ukraine.

Kyiv’s forces posted videos showing them raising the Ukrainian flag in the village of Blahodatne in the Donetsk region and posing with their unit’s flag in the adjacent village of Neskuchne, while Kyiv said its troops had also retaken the village of Makarivka to the south.

“We’re seeing the first results of the counteroffensive actions, localised results,” Valeryi Shershen, a spokesperson for Ukraine’s Tavria military sector, said on television. Counteroffensive operations were launched last week.

A Ukrainian serviceman repairs an armoured personnel carrier in the Donetsk region on Sunday
A Ukrainian serviceman repairs an armoured personnel carrier in the Donetsk region on Sunday. Photograph: Reuters

Meanwhile, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said work had already begun in an investigation by the international criminal court into the Kakhovka dam disaster and the vast flood damage it caused.

He said representatives of the court had visited the Kherson region in recent days after the dam breach, which Ukraine has accused Russian forces of causing.

A woman on a flooded street in Kherson after being evacuated from an apartment building by volunteers on Friday
A woman on a flooded street in Kherson after being evacuated from an apartment building by volunteers on Friday. Photograph: Roman Pilipey/Getty Images

More on both those stories shortly. In other news:

  • Three civilians were killed and 10 others wounded after Russian forces opened fire on a boat carrying flood evacuees to the Ukrainian-controlled city of Kherson. A 74-year-old man used his body to shield a woman from Russian fire and was hit in the back, Reuters reported. Two of the 10 people wounded were law enforcement officers.

  • The head of Russia’s Wagner mercenary force, Yevgeny Prigozhin, said his fighters would not sign contracts with the Russian defence ministry, hours after the defence minister, Sergei Shoigu, sought to bring volunteer detachments under its control. “Wagner will not sign any contracts with Shoigu,” Prigozhin said on Sunday, adding that the minister “cannot properly manage military formations”. Wagner was completely subordinated to the interests of Russia, Prigozhin said, but its command structure would be damaged by reporting to Shoigu.

  • Russia’s defence ministry said its forces had shot down a Ukrainian Su-25 fighter jet in Kherson region, where the Kakhovka dam breach led to major flooding. Russia also repelled three Ukrainian attacks in the Zaporizhzhia region, the ministry said, while the Tass news agency reported Russian air defence systems shot down a Ukrainian missile near the Russian-controlled port city of Berdiansk on the Sea of Azov.

  • Russia’s defence ministry said Ukraine had made an unsuccessful attempt to attack a vessel of its Black Sea fleet which was protecting natural gas pipelines. The ship was monitoring the situation along the TurkStream and Blue Stream pipelines route in the Black Sea, it said.

  • Russian forces blew up the Khakhovka dam to prevent Ukrainian troops from launching an offensive and advancing in the southern Kherson region, according to Kyiv’s deputy defence minister. Hanna Maliar said the action was also intended to help Russia deploy reserves to the Zaporizhzhia and Bakhmut areas.

  • Russia and Ukraine have simultaneously swapped nearly 100 prisoners each. The Ukrainian prisoners included members of the national guard and border guards who had been in action in several places, including near the city of Mariupol and the Chornobyl nuclear power plant.

Ukrainian PoWs after the prisoner exchange
Ukrainian PoWs at an unknown location after the prisoner exchange. Photograph: Ukrainian armed forces/Reuters
  • Russia’s defence minister has awarded medals to soldiers after Moscow said its forces had destroyed four German-made Leopard tanks and five US-made Bradley fighting vehicles while repelling a Ukrainian counteroffensive. Sergei Shoigu was shown on state television awarding the Hero of Russia gold star, Russia’s highest military honour, on Sunday to soldiers who said they had destroyed enemy tanks and armoured vehicles.

  • Two drones crashed early on Sunday in Russia’s Kaluga region – one near the village of Strelkovka, another in the woods in the Medynsky municipal district, according to the region’s governor, Vladislav Shapsha. There were no casualties and only minimal damage, he said on Telegram.

  • A US citizen arrested in Russia on drugs charges this week is a military veteran and musician who has lived in Moscow for nearly a decade. Travis Michael Leake and a friend, Valeria Grobanyuk, were arrested in a drug raid that has the potential to further ignite tensions between Washington and Moscow. “I don’t understand why I’m here,” said a man shown on camera and identified by Russian state media as Leake. “I do not admit my guilt.”




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