Russia reports fierce fighting, Zelenskiy praises his troops and counter-offensive

By Mark Trevelian

(Reuters) – Russia reported heavy fighting on three sections of the frontline in Ukraine on Sunday as Ukraine’s president praised his troops for repelling enemy advances and said their counteroffensive was progressing well.

The assessments of action along the 1,000 km (600 mile) front came a day after an African peacekeeping mission concluded talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The mission did not arouse the enthusiasm of Moscow or kyiv.

The United Nations, meanwhile, has accused Moscow of not allowing it to provide assistance to Russian-held areas of Ukraine affected by the burst of a large electric dam that flooded large swathes of land and left thousands of homeless.

A Russian-installed official said Ukraine had recaptured Piatykhatky, a village in the southern region of Zaporizhzhia, and entrenched itself there under Russian artillery fire.

“The enemy’s ‘wave-like’ offensives have yielded results, despite huge losses,” the official, Vladimir Rogov, said on the Telegram messaging app.

The Russian Defense Ministry made no mention of Piatykhatky in its daily update, in which it said his forces had repelled Ukrainian attacks in three sections of the front line. Russia’s Vostok Group of Forces said Ukraine failed to take the settlement.

The evening report of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine also made no mention of Piatykhatky. Last week, Ukraine said it recaptured a nearby settlement, Lobkove, and villages further east in the Donetsk region at the start of its counteroffensive.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has praised his troops for being “very effective in repelling assaults” near Avdiivka, one of the hotspots of fighting in eastern Ukraine.

The long-awaited Ukrainian counteroffensive was going well, he said in his nightly video address.

“Our troops are on the move: position by position, step by step, we are advancing,” he said.

Reuters could not independently verify reports from the battlefield.

Ukrainian officials imposed an information blackout to help with operational security, but say Russia suffered far greater casualties than Ukraine in its new assault.

A regional official said Ukrainian forces destroyed a Russian ammunition depot in the occupied Kherson region, part of a week-long effort by Kiev to disrupt Russian supply lines.

British defense intelligence said the fighting had centered on Zaporizhzhia, west Donetsk and near Bakhmut, captured last month by Russian mercenaries after the longest battle of the war.

“In all these areas, Ukraine continues to carry out offensive operations and has made small advances,” he said on Twitter.

Russia’s defence, he said, was “relatively effective in the south”, with both sides suffering heavy casualties.

Putin tries to reassure the Russians

Putin, who rarely comments on the course of the war, made two unusually detailed remarks last week in which he mocked the Ukrainian push and said Kiev forces had “no chance” despite the fact that ‘they were newly equipped with Western tanks.

His comments seemed intended to reassure Russians, nearly 16 months into the conflict, as Ukraine seeks to retake the 18% of its territory that remains under Russian control.

During talks in Saint Petersburg on Saturday, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa presented Putin with a 10-point peace initiative from seven African countries and told him it was time for Russia and Ukraine to start. negotiations to end the war.

Putin responded with accusations long denied by Ukraine and the West and said it was kyiv, not Moscow, that refused to talk. He thanked Ramaphosa for his “noble mission”.

In his video message, Zelenskiy said the talks in St. Petersburg demonstrated that only Ukraine’s peace plan calling for the withdrawal of all Russian troops was realistic.

“Everything that was discussed in Russia was about war, how to destroy more lives,” he said.

In Kiev, Zelenskiy had told the African delegation – the first since the start of the war to hold face-to-face talks with the two leaders – that the talks would only “freeze the war”.

The rift between the two sides was further underscored when Putin used an economic forum on Friday to insult Zelenskiy and reaffirm Ukraine’s “demilitarization” and “denazification” goals, rejected by Kiev and the West as a pretext for a invasion.


Ramaphosa tweeted on Sunday that the mission had been “impactful and its ultimate success will be measured on the objective, which is to stop the war.” He said Africans would continue to talk to both Putin and Zelenskiy.

The war has destroyed Ukrainian cities, forced millions to flee their homes, and claimed heavy, but undisclosed, casualties to both armies.

Each side accuses the other of blowing up the Kakhovka electric dam on June 6 in the Kherson region and flooding large areas of the war zone. Russia seized the Kherson region early in the invasion and still controls parts of it.

The UN statement, issued by its humanitarian coordinator for Ukraine, Denise Brown, said the global body “will continue to engage in seeking necessary access” to areas controlled by Russia.

“We urge the Russian authorities to act in accordance with their obligations under international humanitarian law. Aid cannot be withheld from those in need.”

(Additional reporting by Dan Peleschuk, Tom Balmforth and Wendell Roelf Writing by Mark Trevelyan in London Editing by Frances Kerry, David Evans, Ron Popeski and Michael Perry)

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