Russia under pressure in southern Ukraine, seizes eastern villages

KIEV/KUPIANSK, UKRAINE—Russian-backed forces have advanced in eastern Ukraine, Britain said on Friday.

British intelligence reports say forces led by the Russian private military firm Wagner Group have captured the villages of Optine and Ivangrad, south of the hotly contested town of Bakmut.

A daily update from London, which usually focuses on Ukrainian battlefield successes, states that “since early July, no other settlements, if any, have been seized by regular Russian forces or by separatist forces. Almost none,” he said.

Ukraine launched a counterattack in late August against the Russian forces that have controlled the country since it launched an invasion in February, driving them out of parts of the northeast.

Kyiv’s main focus now is Kherson. Kherson is one of her four partially-controlled provinces in Ukraine, which Russia claims to have annexed in recent weeks, and is perhaps the most strategically important.

Russia’s TASS news agency said evacuees from the Kherson region were expected to start arriving in Russia on Friday.

The city of Kherson controls the only land route to the mouth of the Dnipro River, which bisects Crimea and Ukraine.

Since the beginning of October, Ukrainian forces have broken through the Russian front lines in the region in the largest advance in the south since the war began, aiming to cut off Russian forces from their supply lines and escape routes across the river. rice field.

Kherson borders the Zaporizhia region, also claimed by Russia, which houses Europe’s largest nuclear power plant.

A Russian-installed official said the factory was now operating according to Russian standards. It was not clear if the Ukrainian workers, who continued to operate the factory under Russian military surveillance, were still there.

The director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has separately tweeted that Russia and Ukraine are nearing an agreement on protected areas for power plants, saying the situation is “unsustainable”.

A Russian Wagner group was targeting Bakhmut to seize control of the Kramatorsk-Sorviansk metropolitan area in the East Donetsk region, a British report said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky reported on the “brutal” fighting going on there in a video address late Thursday.

In his speech, Zelensky said no one had visited Olenivka yet and accused the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) of failing to uphold the rights of Ukrainian prisoners of war.

The ICRC said it had been preparing for the visit for months, he added. “We cannot force our way into camps or camps where we are not authorized.”

This week, Russia launched its largest airstrike since the start of the war, firing more than 100 cruise missiles, primarily at Ukraine’s power and heat infrastructure.

By Max Hunder and Abdelaziz Boumzar