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Russia deals symbolic blow to Ukraine with village capture


Russia said Wednesday that its forces had retaken Klishchiivka, one of a handful of villages on the eastern front that Ukraine claimed back in a 2023 counteroffensive.

Russia’s forces have in recent weeks 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.

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

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

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

Russian troops originally 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 frontline city of Bakhmut — now held by Russia — and had a population of about 500 people before the conflict.

Ukraine did not immediately comment but President Volodymyr Zelensky warned in an evening address Tuesday that the frontline was “extremely difficult.”

– Fatal attacks in Russia –

Russia’s gains since launching its ground assault in Ukraine’s northeast has forced Kyiv’s already 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 frontline village of Vovchanska, 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 post on Telegram.

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.

“Ten civilians were injured in the shelling of Kharkiv,” the region’s governor Oleg Synegubov said on social media.

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

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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 region governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said.

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

The Kremlin has said its new Kharkiv offensive is aimed at creating a “security zone” that would help it 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 was captured by Russian forces in mid-2022 and lies close to the eastern front.

© Agence France-Presse