KYIV: Kyiv said on Monday (Sep 18) its forces had broken through Russia’s defensive lines near the war-battered town of Bakhmut in the slow-moving but high-stakes Ukrainian counteroffensive, ahead of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressing the UN General Assembly.
Zelenskyy arrived in New York on Monday – his second visit to the United States since Moscow’s invasion launched in February last year – ahead of addressing the UN General Assembly on Tuesday and meeting with his US counterpart Joe Biden.
“I will thank the US for its leadership in supporting our struggle for freedom and independence,” Zelenskyy said on X, formerly Twitter.
Kyiv launched its bid to wrest back territory controlled by Moscow in June, focusing on Bakhmut in the eastern Donetsk region as well as several points in the south towards Crimea, after stockpiling Western-supplied weapons, including from the US, and recruiting assault battalions.
Its limited progress against entrenched Russian positions has spurred debate among Kyiv’s Western allies over its military strategy.
But earlier on Monday, the defence ministry said it had recaptured a total of seven square kilometres last week near Bakhmut and also along the southern front.
Ukraine’s ground forces commander Oleksandr Syrskyi then announced: “Fierce fighting continues in the area of Bakhmut. As a result of the successful actions of our troops, the enemy’s defence line was broken.”
It follows Ukrainian forces announcing last week that they had wrested back control of two villages south of the industrial hub, cementing the battle for Bakhmut as the longest and likely bloodiest of the invasion.
Russian forces meanwhile have pursued their aerial bombardment campaign, targeting Ukraine’s southern regions and maritime export hubs in particular.
Ukraine said its air defence systems had downed a swarm of attack drones and 17 cruise missiles in Russia’s latest barrage overnight Sunday.
The air force said it had brought down 18 out of 24 Russian attack drones over the Black Sea regions of Odesa and Mykolaiv.
Russia however said that with the strikes it had hit storage facilities for British Storm Shadow cruise missiles and ammunition with depleted uranium – a controversial weapon supplied by the United States to Kyiv.
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