Kyiv, Ukraine — Ukraine’s military said on Monday it had repelled more than a dozen Russian attacks in the east and north of the country, including attempts to advance on key towns in the known eastern industrial heartland. under the name of Donbass.
In its regular Facebook update, the army general staff said Russian troops tried to push towards Kramatorsk, one of two major towns in the eastern province of Donetsk that remain under Ukrainian control, but “they completely failed and retreated chaotically to their previous positions”.
In the same message, the military said Russian forces staged an unsuccessful assault on Bakhmut, a strategic town in the Donetsk region whose capture would pave the way for Russia to take Kramatorsk and Ukraine’s de facto administrative capital, Sloviansk.
The Donetsk region is one of two provinces that make up Donbass, where fighting has been largely concentrated in recent months since Kremlin forces retreated around the capital, Kyiv.
Russian officials announced the full capture of the Luhansk region, the second of two, early last month, despite its Ukrainian governor repeatedly claiming that Kyiv forces are holding out in a small area near the regional border. .
In the same update, the military claimed that Russia had unsuccessfully attempted to break through Ukrainian defense lines in the northern region of Kharkiv, home to Ukraine’s second-largest city, but had been “severely met and rebuffed”.
Meanwhile, Russia’s FSB, the main successor agency to the KGB, said it foiled a “sabotage and terrorist attack” on an oil pipeline in the Volgograd region of southern Russia that he blamed two Russian citizens for colluding with Ukrainian security forces.
The claims could not immediately be verified.
Elsewhere, Russian and Ukrainian officials swapped fresh accusations on Monday over a fresh bombing of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, with each side alleging the other was responsible for the attacks that raised fears of a disaster.
The Kremlin-backed administration’s press office in Enerhodar, the Russian-held town where the plant is located, told Interfax that Ukrainian forces were carrying out a “massive shelling” of the facility, as well as residential and industrial areas of Enerhodar.
The statement said the shelling came from Nikopol, a Ukrainian-controlled town that faces the plant across the Dnieper.
The mayor of Nikopol later said that the Russians were shelling Enerhodar themselves.
Mayor Yevhen Yevtushenko and other Nikopol city officials repeatedly accused Russian troops stationed at the plant of shelling the city, knowing that Ukrainian forces were unlikely to retaliate.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy renewed his call for new sanctions against Moscow and its nuclear industry in response to the situation. He described the actions of Russian forces there as “nuclear blackmail” that could embolden malicious actors around the world.
As Russian forces continued their artillery barrages around Ukraine, at least three Ukrainian civilians were killed and 20 others injured, Ukrainian officials said.
The dead and 13 injured were blamed on Russian shelling that hit towns and villages in the Donetsk region, regional officials said.
In the country’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, seven civilians were injured as Russian shelling hit residential buildings and an area near a bus stop. Kharkiv Governor Oleh Synyehubov said the injured included an 80-year-old woman.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Lt. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said on Monday that Russian warplanes hit Ukrainian army positions in the southern Kherson region and Donetsk region. He added that the Russian air force also struck a facility in the Kharkiv region, killing at least 100 people and wounding 50 “mercenaries” from Poland and Germany. His claims could not be independently verified.
Speaking at the opening of an arms exhibition outside Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin hailed the army, which he said was “liberating Donbass step by step”.
He also promised to expand arms sales to Russian allies, whom he praised for continuing to offer strong support to Moscow in the face of Western pressure.
For its part, the Ukrainian army claimed to have destroyed more than 10 Russian warehouses containing ammunition and military equipment in the past week.
In other developments Monday:
– Lawyers for American basketball star Brittney Griner have appealed her nine-year prison sentence in Russia for drug possession, Russian news agencies reported. Griner, a Phoenix Mercury center and two-time Olympic gold medalist, was sentenced Aug. 4. She was arrested in February at Sheremetyevo airport in Moscow after vaping cartridges containing cannabis oil were found in her luggage.
— The Ukrainian parliament extended martial law and general mobilization of the country for another 90 days.
– Zelenskyy sacked the heads of three regional branches of Ukraine’s top security agency, SBU, in Kyiv, Lviv and Tarnopil regions. Zelenskyy’s office did not specify the reasons for the move. Last month, he sacked SBU chief Ivan Bakanov and a chief prosecutor, saying their departments had too many people accused of collaborating with the Russians.
— The trial of five European men captured in eastern Ukraine has begun in a court run by Kremlin-backed separatists, Russian media reported.
Three of the five – a Swede, a Croat and a Briton – could face the death penalty for serving as mercenaries and ‘training in order to seize power’ under the laws of the self-declared, unrecognized Donetsk People’s Republic , in Russia. state media reported.
The other two, both British, face prison terms.
— A British military reconnaissance plane violated Russian airspace, the Russian Ministry of Defense announced.
The ministry said in a statement that Russian Air Defense Forces in the northwestern Russian Arctic spotted the plane heading towards the border from the direction of the Barents Sea. A Russian fighter identified the plane as a British Air Force RC-135 and forced it out of Russian territory, the ministry said.
– German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has said Berlin will not support several other European countries that have called for an EU-wide decision to stop issuing tourist visas to Russian citizens.
Nations backing such a ban say Russians should not be able to vacation in Europe while Moscow wages war on Ukraine. Finland and Denmark want an EU decision and some EU countries bordering Russia already no longer issue visas to Russians.
“This is not the Russian people’s war. This is (Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s war and we have to be very clear about this,” Scholz said.
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