Kyiv, Ukraine — Pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin intensified on the battlefield and in the corridors of global power as Ukrainian troops pushed their counteroffensive on Saturday to advance further into Ukraine’s partially retaken northeast .
Western officials and analysts said Russian forces were apparently setting up a new defensive line in northeastern Ukraine after the counteroffensive broke through the previous one, allowing soldiers from Kyiv to resume large tracts of land in the northeastern region of Kharkiv which borders Russia.
Putin, at a high-level summit in Uzbekistan this week, pledged to continue his attack on Ukraine despite recent military setbacks, but also faced concerns from India and China over the endless conflict.
“I know that today’s era is not one of war,” Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi told the Russian leader in televised comments when they met in Uzbekistan on Friday. world.”
At the same summit a day earlier, Putin acknowledged China‘s unspecified “issues and concerns” over the war in Ukraine while thanking President Xi Jinping for Beijing’s “balanced stance” on the conflict.
The hasty withdrawal of Russian troops this month from parts of a northeastern region they occupied at the start of the war, along with the few public reservations expressed by key allies, underscored the challenges Putin faces. confronted on all fronts. Both China and India have maintained close ties with Russia and have sought to remain neutral towards Ukraine.
Xi, in a statement, expressed support for Russia’s “core interests” but also wanted to work together to “inject stability” into world affairs. Modi said he wanted to discuss “how we can move forward on the road to peace”, adding that the biggest concerns facing the world are food security, energy security and fertilizer issues.
“We have to find a way out and you too have to contribute to it,” Modi stressed in a rare public rebuke.
The comments cast a shadow over a summit that Putin hoped would boost his diplomatic status and show he was not so isolated internationally.
On the battlefield, the British Ministry of Defense said the new front line would likely be between the Oskil River and Svatove, 150 kilometers (90 miles) southeast of Kharkiv, the second-largest city in ‘Ukraine.
After the withdrawal of Russian troops from the town of Izium, the Ukrainian authorities discovered a mass grave, one of the largest discovered to date.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said there were more than 440 graves at the site containing the bodies of hundreds of civilian adults and children, as well as soldiers, and that some had been tortured, shot or killed by gunfire of artillery. He cited evidence of atrocities, such as a body with a rope around its neck and broken arms.
“Torture was a widespread practice in the occupied territory. That’s what the Nazis did. That’s what (the Russians) are doing,” Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address on Saturday. “We will establish the identity of all those who tortured, who mocked, who brought this atrocity from Russia here to Ukrainian soil.”
Meanwhile, Ukrainian forces were crossing the Oskil River in the Kharkiv region and placing artillery there, the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War said on Saturday. The river, which flows south from Russia into Ukraine, had been a natural break in newly emerging frontlines since Ukraine launched its counteroffensive about a week ago.
“Russian forces are probably too weak to prevent further Ukrainian advances along the entire Oskil River,” the institute said.
Videos circulating online indicated that Ukrainian forces continued to retake land in the beleaguered east of the country, although their veracity could not be independently verified.
One showed a Ukrainian soldier walking past a damaged building, then pointing at a colleague who hung the blue and yellow Ukrainian flag above a mobile phone tower. The soldier identified the seized village as Dibrova, just northeast of the city of Sloviansk in Ukraine’s Donetsk region.
Another video showed two Ukrainian soldiers in what appeared to be a bell tower, one saying they had taken over the village of Shchurove, also northeast of Sloviansk.
The Ukrainian military and Russia have not commented on the two villages.
Elsewhere, Russian forces continued to pound towns and villages with missile strikes and shelling.
A Russian missile attack early Saturday sparked a fire in Kharkiv’s industrial zone, regional governor Oleh Syniehubov said. Firefighters extinguished the fire.
Syniehubov said remains suggested the Russians fired S-300 surface-to-air missiles at the city. The S-300 is designed to hit missiles or aircraft in the sky, not ground targets. Analysts say Russia’s use of the missiles suggests they may be running low on precision munitions.
The shelling of the nearby town of Chuhuiv later in the day killed an 11-year-old girl, Syniehubov reported.
In the southern region of Zaporizhzhia, much of which is occupied by Russian forces, one person was injured during the shelling of the city of Orikhiv, the Ukrainian governor of the region, Oleksandr Starukh, reported on Telegram. He added that Russian troops also shelled two villages in the area, destroying several civilian facilities.
Explosions were also reported in Russian-occupied parts of Zaporizhzhia. Russia-based official Vladimir Rogov said on Telegram that at least five explosions were heard in the town of Melitopol. The city’s Ukrainian mayor, Ivan Fedorov, said they were in a village south of the city, where Russian troops had moved military equipment.
Ukraine’s central Dnipropetrovsk region also came under Russian fire overnight, according to its governor, Valentyn Reznichenko. “The enemy attacked six times and launched more than 90 murderous projectiles on peaceful towns and villages,” he said.
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s atomic energy operator Energoatom said a convoy of 25 trucks had brought diesel and other essential supplies to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant – the largest in Europe – which was closed a week ago as nearby fighting could lead to a radioactive disaster. .
The trucks were allowed through Russian checkpoints on Friday to deliver spare parts for repairing damaged power lines, chemicals for plant operation and extra fuel for emergency diesel generators, it said. Energyatom.
The six-reactor plant was captured by Russian forces in March but is operated by Ukrainian engineers. Its last reactor was shut down on Sunday after repeated power outages from bombings endangered crucial safety systems.
The International Atomic Energy Agency reported on Saturday that one of the nuclear plant’s four main external power lines had been repaired.
The Russian military has accused Ukraine of renewing the artillery bombardment of the power plant. Ukrainian authorities did not immediately respond to the complaint.
In Russia, one person was killed and two others injured on Saturday by shelling, according to Vyacheslav Gladkov, governor of the Russian border region of Belgorod. Gladkov blamed Ukraine. The request could not be verified.
Karl Ritter in Kyiv contributed to this report.
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