- Russia advances on the Eastern Front
- Ukraine says it was forced to give ground
- But says he took over two villages
- Moscow says it inflicted heavy losses
- NATO chief says Russia must not win
KYIV, Aug 4 (Reuters) – Ukraine said on Thursday it had been forced to cede territory in the east of the country in the face of a Russian offensive, and the head of the NATO military alliance said that Moscow should not be allowed to win the war.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy called this week “hell” the pressure exerted on his armed forces in the Donbass region in eastern Ukraine. He spoke of fierce fighting around the town of Avdiivka and the fortified village of Pisky, where Kyiv acknowledged the “partial success” of its Russian enemy in recent days.
Ukraine’s military said Thursday that Russian forces mounted at least two assaults on Pisky but its troops managed to repel them.
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Ukraine has spent the past eight years fortifying defensive positions in Pisky, viewing it as a buffer zone against Russian-backed forces controlling the city of Donetsk some 10 km (6 miles) to the southeast.
General Oleksiy Hromov told a press conference that Ukrainian forces recaptured two villages around the eastern city of Sloviansk, but were pushed back to the outskirts town of Avdiivka after being forced to abandon a coal mine considered a key defensive position.
The Russian Ministry of Defense has confirmed its offensive.
Reuters could not immediately verify the claims of either party.
Video footage released by the Russian Defense Ministry showed Russian rocket launchers in action and tanks advancing and firing at high speeds across open terrain. It is not known where they were filmed.
Footage circulating on social media showed bodies, some blown up, lying by the side of a road in central Donetsk. Blood stained the sidewalk.
Russia, which denies deliberately attacking civilians, has said it plans to take full control of the wider Donetsk province, one of two that make up the industrialized Donbass region, as part of what it calls a “special military operation” to protect its security against what it calls an unwarranted NATO enlargement.
Human rights group Amnesty International on Thursday accused Ukraine of endangering civilians by basing troops in residential areas in a report. Zelenskiy hit back at Amnesty saying the organization was trying to “shift the blame from the perpetrator to the victim”. Read more
The White House said Thursday it expected Russian officials to try to frame Ukrainian forces for an attack on the frontline town of Olenivka last week that killed prisoners held by separatists backed by Moscow. Read more
“We anticipate that Russian officials will attempt to trap Ukrainian armed forces in anticipation of journalists and potential investigators visiting the site of the attack,” National Security spokesman John Kirby said.
Russia’s deputy UN ambassador later responded to Kirby in a Twitter post, saying US-made high-mobility artillery rocket systems were used in the attack.
“Don’t worry, Mr. Spokesman! Since the proof that the prison was bombed by HIMARS is irrefutable, there is no need to falsify anything! he posted.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Wednesday he would launch a fact-finding mission after Russia and Ukraine called for an investigation. Read more
Ukraine and the West, which describe Russia’s actions as an unprovoked imperial-style war of aggression, say Russian forces must withdraw to their positions by February 24, when President Vladimir Putin sent tens of thousands of soldiers in Ukraine.
Moscow, which regularly speaks of the need for its forces to advance deeper into Ukraine, seems unlikely to agree to do so voluntarily.
There seemed to be new progress on the movement of grain ships to alleviate the growing global food crisis. Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said three ships were expected to leave Ukrainian ports on Friday. Read more
A first ship carrying Ukrainian grain left the port of Odessa on Monday to arrive in the Bosphorus Strait some 36 hours later as part of an agreement between Russia and Ukraine, brokered by Turkey and the United Nations .
Ukraine has said the Russian offensive in the east looks like an attempt to force it to divert troops from the south where Kyiv forces are trying to retake territory and destroy Russian supply lines as a prelude to a wider counter-offensive.
“The idea is to exert military pressure on us in Kharkiv, Donetsk and Luhansk over the next few weeks… What happens in the east is not what will determine the outcome of the war “Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said in a statement. interview on YouTube.
General Hromov said Russia could launch its own offensive in the Kherson region of southern Ukraine to try to regain the momentum of the war after building up its forces there.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Thursday the war was the most dangerous time for Europe since World War II and that Russia must not be allowed to win it. Read more
To prevent Moscow from succeeding, NATO and its member nations may have to support Ukraine with weapons and other forms of assistance for a long time to come, he said.
“It is in our interests that this type of aggressive policy does not succeed,” Stoltenberg said in a speech in his native Norway.
While some Western politicians feared that Russia’s ambitions would extend beyond Ukraine, Stoltenberg warned Putin that the response to such a move from the Western military alliance would be overwhelming.
“If President Putin even thinks about doing something similar to a NATO country like he did with Georgia, Moldova or Ukraine, then all of NATO will be involved immediately,” Stoltenberg said. .
The war has led the previously unaligned Finland and Sweden to apply for NATO membership, the application having so far been ratified by 23 of the 30 member states, including the United States.
Russia, which shares a long land border with Finland, has repeatedly warned Finland and Sweden against joining NATO.
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Reports from Reuters offices; Written by Andrew Osborn and Leela de Kretser; Editing by Angus MacSwan, William Maclean and Daniel Wallis
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