Ukraine claims gains on southeastern front, fighting rages in east

KYIV (Reuters) – The Ukrainian military on Thursday claimed gains in its counter-offensive against Russian forces on the southeastern front, pushing forward from a newly-liberated village in an attempted drive towards the Sea of Azov.

The military said it had made progress to the south of Urozhaine, a village a few kilometres from a Russian stronghold at Staromlynivka. Kyiv said on Wednesday it had retaken Urozhaine as it tries to build southward momentum to split Russia’s occupying forces in half.

“In the direction south of Urozhaine they (Ukrainian troops) had success,” military spokesman Andriy Kovaliov said on national television. He gave no more details.

Urozhaine, in Donetsk region, was the first village Kyiv said it had retaken since July 27, signalling the challenge Kyiv faces in advancing through heavily mined Russian defensive lines without powerful air support.

It lies just over 90 km (55 miles) north of the Sea of Azov and about 100 km (60 miles) west of Russian-held Donetsk city.

Vladimir Rogov, a Russian-installed official in parts of Zaporizhzhia controlled by Moscow, said Urozhaine and the neighbouring village of Staromaiorske were not under Ukrainian control.

Rogov, writing on Telegram, said Russian forces had halted a Ukrainian offensive towards the village of Robotyne in Zaporizhzhia region, to the west of Urozhaine, on Thursday morning.

Ukraine’s Kovaliov also reported fierce fighting in the northeastern Kharkiv region, and around an eastern village not far from Bakhmut, the city occupied by Russian forces in May after a bloody months-long struggle.

“The enemy conducted unsuccessful offensive actions in the area of Senkivka in Kharkiv region and Bohdanivka in Donetsk. There are serious battles here,” he said.

“In the Bakhmut direction, defensive forces (Ukraine) continue to conduct offensive actions to the south of Bakhmut.”

On Wednesday, the Ukrainian interior ministry released footage depicting troops fighting inside the village of Klishchiivka, just south of Bakhmut. Reuters was unable to verify the footage or when it was filmed.

The footage showed troops engaged in firefights in and around the village, as well as clearing a basement using grenades.

A Ukrainian general said on Wednesday that Russia was attacking towards Kupiansk, a town in Kharkiv region, but Kovaliov said Ukraine was holding them back, as well as Russian assaults to Bakhmut’s north and near the town of Lyman.

Russia controls nearly a fifth of Ukraine, including the peninsula of Crimea, most of Luhansk region and large tracts of the regions of Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson.

Kyiv says its counter-offensive is progressing slower than it wanted because of vast Russian minefields and heavily-fortified Russian defensive lines.

(Reporting by Pavel Polityuk; Writing by Tom Balmforth; Editing by Angus MacSwan)