Russian-occupied Kherson cut off as Ukraine strikes back

  • Ukrainian counter-offensive in Kherson gains momentum – UK
  • Russia in “massive redeployment” in the south, according to Ukraine
  • Russian-backed forces take control of Vuhlehirsk plant
  • Blinken says he plans to call with Russian Lavrov

July 28 (Reuters) – A Ukrainian counter-offensive has virtually cut off the Russian-occupied southern city of Kherson, leaving thousands of Russian troops stationed near the Dnipro River “very vulnerable”, local authorities said on Thursday. British defense and intelligence officials.

Ukraine has made clear its intention to retake Kherson, which fell to Russia at the start of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion on February 24.

The British Ministry of Defense said Ukrainian forces likely established a bridgehead south of the Ingulets River and used new long-range artillery to damage at least three of the bridges crossing the Dnipro.

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“The Russian 49th Army, stationed on the western bank of the Dnipro River, now looks very vulnerable,” she said in a regular intelligence bulletin on Twitter, adding that Kherson was virtually cut off from other Russian-occupied territories.

“His loss would seriously undermine Russia’s attempts to portray the occupation as a success.”

Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, earlier tweeted that Russia was concentrating “maximum number of troops” towards Kherson but gave no details.

Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said Russia was making a “massive redeployment” of forces from east to south in what amounted to a strategic shift from attack to defence.

Zelenskiy said Ukraine would rebuild the Antonivskyi Bridge over the Dnipro and other crossings in the region.

“We are doing everything so that the occupying forces have no logistical opportunity in our country,” he said on Wednesday evening.

Russian officials had earlier said they would instead look to pontoon bridges and ferries to get forces across the river.

Russian-backed forces said on Wednesday they had captured the Soviet-era coal-fired power plant in Vuhlehirsk, Ukraine’s second-largest, in what was Moscow’s first significant gain in more than three weeks. . Read more

DIPLOMACY

Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24 in what Moscow calls a “special military operation” to demilitarize and “denazify” its neighbor. Ukraine and its allies call the invasion a war of unprovoked aggression.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he was planning a phone conversation with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov – the first between the two diplomats since before the war started.

The call in the next few days would not be “a negotiation over Ukraine,” Blinken told a news conference, reaffirming Washington’s position that any discussion about ending the war must take place between Kyiv and Moscow.

Russia has received no official request from Washington regarding a phone call between Blinken and Lavrov, the TASS news agency reported.

The United States has made “a substantial offer” to Russia to release American citizens, WNBA star Brittney Griner and former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, Blinken said, without giving details. what the United States offered in return. Read more

Blinken said he would pressure Lavrov to take up the offer.

A source close to the situation confirmed a CNN report that Washington was willing to trade Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, who is serving a 25-year prison sentence in the United States, as part of a deal.

In addition to discussing Americans detained by Russia, Blinken said he would discuss with Lavrov the tentative agreement on grain exports reached last week between Russia, the United States, Turkey and Ukraine. .

Russia cut gas flows to Europe on Wednesday amid an energy standoff with the European Union. It has blocked grain exports from Ukraine since its invasion, but agreed on Friday to allow deliveries through the Black Sea to Turkey’s Bosphorus Strait and to world markets. Read more

The deal was almost immediately thrown into doubt when Russia fired cruise missiles at Odessa, Ukraine’s biggest port, on Saturday, just 12 hours after the deal was signed.

Prior to the invasion and subsequent sanctions, Russia and Ukraine accounted for almost a third of global wheat exports.

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Reports from Reuters offices; Written by Grant McCool and Stephen Coates; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Lincoln Feast.

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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