Ukraine claims renewed advance despite Russian bombing
Ukraine said on Wednesday it had recaptured several locations in the country’s south from the Russians and welcomed the arrival of a new Western anti-aircraft system that heralds “a new era” after two days of intense bombing.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg assured that the delivery of these systems, which can neutralize Russian missiles in the Ukrainian skies, is “the priority”.
The pledge comes after Ukraine was subjected to “massive” missile, rocket and drone salvos on Monday and Tuesday, particularly targeting its civilian energy infrastructure. Russian President Vladimir Putin presented the strikes as retaliation for the bomb attack that damaged the Crimean Bridge, which he blames on Kyiv.
The Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiï Reznikov has already hailed “a new era of air defense” with the arrival of the “Iris-T system from Germany” and the upcoming delivery of the “American NASAMS”.
At a NATO meeting at the US military base in Ramstein, Germany, he said he was “optimistic” about further announcements.
On Tuesday, at a virtual meeting with the G7, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy asked for help in creating an “air shield” and warned that Mr Putin “still has the means to escalate”.
At the same time, the 27 members of the European Union agreed to organize a major military mission to train Ukrainian armed forces in several member states. According to two diplomats, around 15,000 soldiers will initially be affected.
For its part, the Kremlin said on Wednesday it expects Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to present Vladimir Putin with a concrete proposal for mediation in the conflict at his meeting in Kazakhstan on Thursday.
“The Turks offer to mediate. If there were any (Russian-Ukrainian) contacts, they would be on Turkish territory,” Kremlin diplomatic adviser Yuri Ouchakov told the press.
Meanwhile, Russia has announced the arrest of eight people suspected of taking part in the attack on the Crimean bridge and claims to have foiled two attacks on Russian territory instigated by Ukrainian special forces.
– Putin’s “miscalculation” –
Vladimir Putin had promised a “tough” response to any attack on Russia and its territory, while Moscow announced the annexation of Crimea in 2014 and four other Ukrainian regions in September.
Kyiv has neither confirmed nor denied its involvement in the explosion on the bridge connecting Russian territory with Crimea, but Ukraine has always stressed that it intends to seize this peninsula and all areas occupied by Russia since the February 24 invasion recapture.
Five new locations have been recaptured on the southern front, in the Kherson region, one of the four Moscow is said to have annexed, Ukraine’s presidency said on Wednesday, in what would be the latest setback for the retreating army in that zone as in the northeast and east since the beginning of September.
But she noted that the Russian artillery offered resistance “to deter the counter-offensive along the entire line of contact.”
The Russian Defense Ministry assured him that he had pushed back the Ukrainians in the small catchment area of Kharkiv region (northeast) still under Moscow control, in the north of the Kherson region and in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Lugansk.
For its part, Ukraine said at least seven people were killed in a Russian attack on a market Wednesday morning in the town of Avdiivka, near the eastern front line.
US President Joe Biden noted on Tuesday that his Russian counterpart had “clearly” misjudged the situation in Ukraine and “completely misjudged the opposition he would face.”
He also considered it “irresponsible” that Mr Putin could threaten to use a tactical nuclear weapon to defend his conquests while believing Moscow would not use such a bomb.
– New mass graves –
In the east, Ukrainian authorities have announced the discovery of two new mass graves in towns in the Donetsk region, recently retaken by Russian forces.
In Lyman, a railroad junction occupied in early October, a forensic team clad in riot gear exhumed dozens of bodies, an AFP journalist noted.
“We have already found more than 50 bodies of soldiers and civilians. We have a long trench, a mass grave, in which we found bodies and body parts,” said Pavlo Kyrylenko, governor of Donetsk region.
Russia has been accused of numerous abuses – torture, rape, summary executions – in the cities from which it has withdrawn. Moscow has consistently denied the involvement of its soldiers despite mounting evidence.
Finally, on the energy front of the conflict, President Putin reiterated that the ball is “in the field” for the EU to start supplying Russian gas through the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, which was unaffected by the blasts, which are blaming each other Russian and Western.
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