- Ukraine leads a counter-offensive in the south against the Russians
- UN seeks safe zone near damaged Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant
KYIV, Sept 7 (Reuters) – Ukrainian forces attacked the Russian-held eastern town of Balakliia in the Kharkiv region, a senior pro-Moscow separatist official said, as Ukrainian officials remained on guard over the way a counter-offensive unfolds.
Lugansk region governor Serhiy Gaidai told Ukrainian television, without giving a location, that a “counterattack is underway and … our forces are having some success. Let’s leave it at that.”
In its regular situation report on Wednesday morning, the Ukrainian military said its ground forces had attacked seven Russian command points and 13 “objects of concentration of Russian manpower”, without specifying where.
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He also said his forces repelled Russian assaults on various towns in the eastern Donetsk region, including the strategic town of Bakhmut.
A presidential adviser had tweeted earlier on Tuesday that there would be “good news” coming from the president on the operation in the northeast Kharkiv region.
In his evening speech, however, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy made little mention of operations in the Kharkiv region, but said five Russian cruise missiles were shot down on Tuesday, most of them in the south.
Reuters was unable to independently verify the Ukrainian claims and there was no immediate response from Russia.
But an official of the dissident pro-Moscow People’s Republic of Donetsk on Tuesday gave an unusually candid account of the fighting in Balakliia, an eastern town of 27,000 located between Kharkiv and Izyum, a Russian-held town with a major rail junction used by Moscow to provide its forces.
“Today the Ukrainian Armed Forces, after prolonged artillery preparation…launched an attack on Balakliia…” Daniil Bezsonov said on Telegram, adding that if the city was lost, Russian forces would Izyum would become vulnerable on their northwest flank.
“The Ukrainian Armed Forces concentrated heavy fire on the mobile groups of the Donetsk People’s Republic, which had taken up defensive positions in the nearby forests.
“At the moment Balakliia is surrounded and within firing range of the Ukrainian artillery. All approaches are cut off by fire.”
Several social media posts by military bloggers and witnesses also reported fighting around Balakliia.
Vadym Krokhmal, a member of the city council of Kupyansk, a town east of Kharkiv that has been occupied for five months, uploaded a video urging residents not to participate in any referendum on joining Russia that the forces of occupation could organize.
“Very soon the Ukrainian Armed Forces will liberate Kupyansk. We know that, we are sure of that,” Vadym said, advising people to stock up on food and recharge energy sources.
“All we need is a little patience.”
Little information has emerged on the progress of the main Ukrainian offensive in the southern Kherson region, with Kyiv banning journalists from the frontline and releasing only limited reports to preserve the element of surprise.
Russia claims to have repelled the Kherson assault, but Ukraine has reported continued success.
“We are continuing positional battles, and there are already areas that we have liberated,” Natalya Humenyuk, spokeswoman for the Southern District of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, told state television according to media reports.
A statement from the Southern District Command said that over the past 24 hours, Ukrainian forces killed 83 Russian servicemen, destroyed five tanks, 12 howitzers, three armored vehicles and three ammunition depots. He also said that anti-aircraft fire shot down a Russian Su-25 attack plane.
Western military experts say Ukraine’s objective in the south appears to be to trap thousands of Russian troops on the west bank of the wide Dnipro River and cut them off by destroying their rear supply lines.
News of a simultaneous Ukrainian advance near Kharkiv was an indication that Russian troops were struggling to build up strength along the front, Mark Hertling, a retired former U.S. commander of ground forces in Europe, said in a statement. tweet.
SAFETY OF NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres outlined specific steps to both sides to demilitarize the area around Russia’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine.
The first was for Russian and Ukrainian forces to pledge to refrain from all military activity in and around the plant, Europe’s largest nuclear power plant.
“As a second step, an agreement on a demilitarized perimeter should be reached,” Guterres told the UN Security Council on Tuesday. “Specifically, this would include a commitment by Russian forces to withdraw all military personnel and equipment from this perimeter and a commitment by Ukrainian forces not to enter it.” Read more
Russia’s UN ambassador Vassily Nebenzia told reporters ahead of the council meeting: “If we demilitarize, the Ukrainians will intervene immediately and ruin everything.”
Russian soldiers were defending the station, Nebenzia said.
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors led by agency chief Rafael Grossi braved bombardment to cross the front line and reach the plant last week. Two experts from the UN’s nuclear watchdog remained to maintain a long-term presence.
A long-awaited IAEA report released on Tuesday lists damaged parts of the plant, including a building housing nuclear fuel, a radioactive waste storage facility and a building housing an alarm system. He said the power station had been repeatedly cut off from offsite power supplies critical to its safe operation. Read more
The report avoided blaming either party for the damage. The factory was seized by Russian forces shortly after their invasion of Ukraine on February 24, but it is still run by Ukrainian technicians. It is on a Russian side of a huge reservoir, opposite the Ukrainian positions on the other side of the water.
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Reuters reporting; Written by Simon Cameron-Moore; Editing by Stephen Coates
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