Ukraine claims new battlefield advance

A Ukrainian soldier fires during night training in Ukraine's partially Russian-occupied Donetsk region, Aug 17, 2023. [AP Photo]

Ukraine claimed Thursday that its counteroffensive had retaken parts of Russian-controlled land in the southeastern part of the country in a push beyond the newly liberated village of Urozhaine.

The advance is an attempted drive toward the Sea of Azov, an effort to split Russia’s occupying forces in half.

"In the direction south of Urozhaine, [Ukrainian troops] had success," military spokesman Andriy Kovaliov said on national television. He gave no more details.

Urozhaine, in the eastern Donetsk region, was the first village Kyiv said it had retaken since July 27 in what has proved to be difficult, grinding warfare in heavily mined Russian-controlled territory.

Urozhaine lies just over 90 kilometers north of the Sea of Azov and about 100 kilometers west of Russian-held Donetsk city.

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

Drone footage, however, of the intense fight for Urozhaine, has emerged in which dozens of Russian troops can be seen fleeing to the village’s south.

Russia controls nearly one-fifth of Ukraine, including the Crimean Peninsula it annexed in 2014, most of Luhansk region and large tracts of the Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions.

Kyiv says its counteroffensive is advancing more slowly than it had hoped for because of vast Russian minefields and heavily fortified Russian defensive lines.

Russian attacks on Ukrainian grain facilities

Ukrainian officials said Wednesday that Russia damaged grain infrastructure at a port in the Odesa region in southern Ukraine as part of an overnight drone attack.

Andriy Yermak, chief of staff for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said on Telegram that the attack targeted the port of Reni on the Danube River.

Odesa Governor Oleh Kiper said on Telegram that the attack damaged warehouses and grain storage facilities at the port.

Kiper said there were no reported casualties from the attack, and that Ukraine’s air force had downed 11 Russian drones over Odesa. The Ukrainian military said its air defenses destroyed 13 drones overnight and that Russia had used Iranian-made Shahed drones to target Odesa and Mykolaiv.

Black Sea shipping

The Hong-Kong-flagged container ship Joseph Schulte left Ukraine’s port of Odesa on Wednesday.

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said the vessel was the first to set off down a temporary Black Sea corridor that Ukraine established for civilian ships following Russia’s withdrawal from the Black Sea Grain Initiative.

The Joseph Schulte was carrying 30,000 metric tons of cargo, Kubrakov said. The vessel had been stuck in Odesa since Russian launched its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Russia has not said whether it will respect Ukraine’s shipping corridor. On Sunday, a Russian patrol ship fired warning shots at a vessel after what Russia said was a failure by the captain to respond to a request for an inspection.