Ukraine’s military said on Sunday it had retaken the small village of Klishchiivka, the second settlement to return to Kiev’s control in three days and the most significant recent advance in its hard-fought counteroffensive to drive Russian forces out of the country’s east. .
Klishchiivka had been occupied by Russian forces since January, when Wagner’s mercenaries captured him. after weeks of combat as part of the nearly year-long campaign battle for the nearby city of Bakhmut.
After Bakhmut fell before Russian troops in May, Ukrainian forces almost immediately began a push to expel troops from Moscow from areas north and south of the city. With Klishchiivka sitting on high ground overlooking the roads leading in and out of a ruined Bakhmut, the town was in their sights.
In recent weeks, kyiv troops had been advancing slowly towards Klishchiivka, suffering heavy casualties in pitched battles.
On Friday, the Ukrainian military said its forces had gained control of Andriivka, a small farming village just over two miles to the south. Then, on Sunday afternoon, the 80th Separate Airborne Assault Brigade posted a video of soldiers holding the yellow and blue flag of Ukraine in front of a ruined building and a destroyed church while loud booms echoed in the background.
“The Klishchiivka settlement was finally liberated,” the video reads. caption on Facebook, accrediting their own combatants and those of two other brigades.
General Oleksandr Syrsky, commander of the Ukrainian ground forces, soon announced the news, writing on Telegram that Klishchiivka had been “cleansed of the Russians,” and in his evening speech, President Volodymyr Zelensky They praised the soldiers.
“Klishchiivka! Well done!” he said.
There was no immediate comment from the Russian Defense Ministry, which only mentioned the fighting near Klishchiivka in a sunday night updateand the claims could not immediately be independently confirmed.
Recapturing Klishchiivka may help Ukraine put pressure on Russian forces controlling Bakhmut, something Moscow has done. resources dedicated to defense although it has been reduced to rubble. Klishchiivka, about six miles south of the city, has a commanding position that could allow Ukrainian artillery to more accurately bomb Russian forces entering or leaving Bakhmut.
Russian forces’ conquest of Bakhmut, which once had a population of 70,000, was their first major battlefield victory in months. But the city lies in a bowl that has left Russian defenders in an increasingly dangerous position as Ukrainian troops slowly recapture territory on its periphery.
The claim of further progress in the east came as there were signs that Ukraine could open an alternative route for grain shipments in the face of Russia’s de facto blockade of its ports. On Sunday, the first cargo ships to arrive at a Ukrainian port since July, when Russia ended a deal that had allowed Kiev to export food crops across the Black Sea, were docked in Chornomorsk.
Ukraine’s grain exports are both a vital source of foreign exchange for the country and a crucial factor in global food markets, particularly for African and Middle Eastern countries that are facing hunger. But establishing a corridor safe enough for a regular flow of cargo ships from Ukraine’s seaports is risky, especially since the Black Sea has become a Increasingly critical theater in war..
The two ships docked in Chornomorsk, the bulk carrier Aroyat and the freighter Resilient Africa, are expected to be loaded with about 22,000 tons of wheat destined for countries in Africa and Asia, Ukraine’s infrastructure minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said. said saturday.
“The first civilian ships use the time corridor to reach Ukrainian ports,” Kubrakov wrote. “The ships fly Palau flags and their crew consists of citizens of Turkey, Azerbaijan, Egypt and Ukraine.”
It was unclear when the ships would leave Chornomorsk.
Both ships approached the coast once they entered Ukrainian waters on Saturday, according to data from the Marine Traffic website. Resilient Africa had departed from the Romanian port of Constanta, while Aroyat had departed from a port in Turkey.
Underscoring the risks, Russia launched a drone and missile attack early Sunday in the Odessa region of southern Ukraine. A barn and farmland north of the port city of Odessa were attacked, according to Oleh Kiper, head of the regional military administration.
Russia has repeatedly launched missiles and drones at grain facilities and the port of Odessa since abandoned the Black Sea Grains Initiative, an agreement brokered by Turkey and the United Nations that for a year had established a corridor through which Ukraine could ship wheat, barley and other crops. That agreement allowed Ukrainian ships to pass through. directly across the Black Sea from Odessa and two nearby ports to the Bosphorus off Turkey.
Russia has also attacked the Ukrainian ports on the Danube River at Izmail and Reni, which are increasingly used as an alternative to the main ports along the Black Sea.
In addition to abrogating the grain agreement, Russia said in July that it would consider that any ship arriving in a Ukrainian port could carry military cargo, in a clear warning to civil maritime transport. Last month, a Russian patrol boat fired warning shots to a civilian ship in the Black Sea and then boarded it for inspection.
Thomas Gibbons-Neff contributed reports.