Ukrainian counterattacks slow down Russian offensive in the East

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People attend a Good Friday ceremony inside the damaged church in Pokrova, on the outskirts of Chernihiv, Ukraine, during Orthodox Passover, Friday, April 22, 2022. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

PA

Russian troops are continuing their offensive in the eastern Donbass region in an attempt to fully capture Ukraine’s industrial heartland, but have made little progress as fierce Ukrainian counterattacks have slowed their efforts, Ukrainian officials said on Saturday and British.

Russia continues to fight for full control of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions that make up Donbass and seeks to secure “a land route between these territories and occupied Crimea”, including wiping out the last pocket of Ukrainian resistance in the city. besieged port of Mariupol, the Ukrainian General Staff said in its morning update.

In the past 24 hours, Ukrainian forces repelled eight Russian attacks in the two regions, destroying nine tanks, 18 armored units and 13 vehicles, one tanker and three artillery systems, the General Staff said.

“The units of the Russian occupier are regrouping. The Russian enemy continues to launch missiles and bombardments on military and civilian infrastructure,” the general staff said on its Facebook page.

Luhansk Governor Serhiy Haidai said on Saturday that two people had been killed by Russian shelling in the town of Popasna.

“In addition to the fact that street fighting continues in the city for several weeks, the Russian army constantly fires at multi-storey residential buildings and private houses,” Haidai wrote on the Instagram messaging app. …. Not all of them survived.”

The UK Ministry of Defense said that despite their increased activity, “Russian forces have made no major gains in the past 24 hours as Ukrainian counterattacks continue to hamper efforts.”

Russia has still not established air or sea control due to Ukrainian resistance, and despite President Vladimir Putin’s declaration of victory in Mariupol, “heavy fighting continues to take place, frustrating Russian attempts to capture the city, thus further slowing down their desired advancement in the Donbass”. “, said the Ministry of Defense.

Russia has withdrawn a dozen elite military units from Mariupol to bolster the offensive elsewhere in Donbass, while other troops continue to keep remaining Ukrainian troops in the city stuck in the Azovstal steelworks, the last remaining stronghold, Ukrainian officials said.

Putin reportedly ordered his forces not to storm the factory to finish off the defenders, but instead seal it in an apparent attempt to force them to surrender.

Russian forces have defeated the 2,000 Ukrainian fighters still entrenched inside, the town hall reported on Friday.

“Every day they drop several bombs on Azovstal,” said Petro Andryushchenko, adviser to the mayor of Mariupol. “The fighting, the shelling, the shelling does not stop.”

Mariupol has been reduced largely to smoldering rubble after weeks of bombardment, and Russian state television showed the flag of pro-Moscow Donetsk separatists raised on what it said is the highest point in the city, his television tower. He also showed what he said was the main building of the Azovstal Steelworks in flames.

Under cover of darkness, Ukrainian forces managed to deliver weapons to besieged steel mills by helicopter, said Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council.

Overall, the Kremlin has thrown more than 100,000 troops and mercenaries from Syria and Libya into the fight in Ukraine and is deploying more forces in the country every day, Danilov said.

“We have a difficult situation, but our army is defending our state,” he said.

Mariupol assumed an outsized importance in the war. Capturing it would deprive Ukrainians of a vital port and complete a land corridor between Russia and the Crimean peninsula, which Putin seized from Ukraine in 2014.

It would also allow Putin to throw more of his forces into the potentially decisive battle for Donbass and its coal mines, factories and other industries, or what the Kremlin has now declared to be its main objective.

Latest satellite photos from Maxar Technologies revealed what appeared to be a second mass grave site near Mariupol. The site of a cemetery in the town of Vynohradne has several newly dug parallel trenches measuring about 40 meters (131 feet) long, Maxar said in a statement.

A day earlier, Maxar posted photos of what appeared to be rows upon rows of more than 200 freshly dug mass graves next to a cemetery in the town of Manhush, outside Mariupol. This prompted Ukrainians to accuse the Russians of trying to cover up the massacre of civilians in the city.

“This again confirms that the occupiers are organizing the collection, burial and cremation of deceased residents in all areas of the city,” Andryushchenko said on the Telegram messaging app.

Ukrainians estimated that the graves seen in photos released Thursday could contain 9,000 bodies.

The Kremlin did not respond to satellite images.

According to Ukrainian authorities, more than 100,000 people – compared to a pre-war population of around 430,000 – are trapped in Mariupol with little food, water or heating, and more than 20,000 civilians have been killed. killed during the nearly two-month siege.

Most attempts to evacuate civilians from the city failed due to what the Ukrainians said continued Russian shelling.

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Fisch reported from Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine. Associated Press reporters Mstyslav Chernov and Felipe Dana in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Yuras Karmanau in Lviv, Inna Varenytsia in Kviv, and Robert Burns and Aamer Madhani in Washington contributed to this report, as did other AP staff. ‘AP in the world.

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Follow AP coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

Bonny J. Streater