© Reuters. Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting with members of the Security Council via video link in Moscow, Russia December 6, 2022. Sputnik/Mikhail Metzel/Pool via REUTERS
By Vladyslav Smilianets
NEAR BAKHMUT, Ukraine (Reuters) – Russian forces have attacked settlements in eastern Ukraine from the ground and from the air, officials said on Thursday, in support of an apparent downsizing ambition The Kremlin’s aim was to protect only much of the Ukrainian lands it claimed during the war.
Tatiana Ignatchenko, a spokeswoman for the regional government, said fighting was ongoing along the entire demarcation line in the Donetsk region, with the frontline town of Avdiivka being shelled by Russian tanks on Thursday morning.
Near the city of Lysychansk, Russia has deployed more troops to try to capture the village of Bilohorivka, the governor of Ukraine’s Luhansk region said, while a commander in another disputed settlement described an increasing air raid. of Russia.
In an evening statement, the Ukrainian military command said that Russian artillery hit civilian infrastructure in the towns of Kupiansk and Zolochiv in the Kharkiv region and Ochakiv in the Mykolaiv region.
Recalling that, despite hostilities, Russia maintains lines of communication with the West, Washington said Moscow had released American basketball player Brittney Griner in exchange for the release of the Russian arms dealer. Viktor Bout.
The White House said the prisoner exchange would not change its commitment to the Ukrainian people.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has made conflicting statements about the goals of the war since the February 24 invasion, but now the clear goals include expanding Russia’s borders, as opposed to the The comment was made at the start of the “special military operation”. when he said Moscow’s plans did not include occupying Ukrainian land.
Bilohorivka is one of the only places under Ukrainian control in Luhansk, which together with neighboring Donetsk make up the industrial area east of Donbas that Russia claims.
The Kremlin said on Thursday that it still aims to secure at least most of the territories in eastern and southern Ukraine that Moscow has claimed as part of Russia, but appears to be giving up on capturing territories. territories to the west and northeast from which Ukraine recaptured a steady reversal of early Russian gains.
In the settlement of Posad-Pokrovske in the Kherson region, which was recaptured by Ukraine, some villagers returned to their homes damaged or turned to rubble by Russian shelling, amid a backdrop of destroyed telegraph poles spills and used ammunition.
Putin on Wednesday said Russia had achieved an “important result” with the acquisition of “new territories” – a reference to the September merger of four partially occupied regions that Kiev and most condemned by most members of the United Nations as illegal.
Warning the war could be protracted, Putin said Russia considered the Sea of Azov as its “inner sea”, bordering Russia and Russian-controlled territory in southern Ukraine including Crimea. He said that was the wish of Peter the Great, the 17th and 18th century warrior tsar to whom he had compared himself in the past.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has said that his army will eventually drive Russia out of all the territories it has captured, including the annexed Crimea peninsula that lies between the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov.
In the settlement of Bakhmut and other areas of the Donetsk region adjacent to Luhansk, the attack killed nine civilians, the regional governor said. Ukrainian forces counterattacked with a series of rocket launchers, Reuters witnessed.
THE PLACE WAR
On Thursday, Russian naval forces shot down a Ukrainian drone over the Black Sea, said the Russian-appointed governor of Sevastopol, an important port and largest city in Crimea.
Earlier this week, two attacks on air bases deep inside Russia dealt a blow to Moscow and raised questions about why the country’s defenses failed, as the attention paid to it. Italy turned to the use of drones in the war between neighboring countries.
In the Russian-controlled Ukrainian city of Melitopol in the Zaporizhzhia region, a supply route into Crimea, the Russian-installed authorities summoned combat-age men to mobilize, the army’s general staff Ukraine said in a statement.
Russia has carried out dozens of attacks with multiple rocket launchers since Wednesday, along with 16 air strikes and seven missile strikes, the General Staff said.
Reuters was unable to immediately verify battlefield reports from both sides.
Hundreds of miles across Ukraine’s northern border, Russian troops are preparing for combat in winter conditions by participating in tactical training exercises in ally Belarus, the Russian Defense Ministry said. close to Moscow.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, who relied on the Russian military to quell a popular uprising two years ago, has allowed his country to serve as a springboard for a Russian invasion of their common neighbour. .
So far, he has prevented his troops from participating, but in recent weeks there have been growing signs of involvement in Belarus from Moscow.
Ukraine says thousands of Russian troops have been deployed in Belarus since October, and Belarusian authorities are increasingly talking about the threat they call terrorism from parties operating from across the border.