Ukrainian troops have recaptured a chunk of the city of Severodonetsk – a main focus of the Russian offensive and the site of heavy fighting – it is claimed.
Serhiy Hayday, governor of Luhansk region, said Ukrainian forces have retaken 20% of the territory they had lost in the factory city as the conflict in the country’s east rages on.
He said the gains meant it was “not realistic” that the city would fall in the next two weeks even though Russian reinforcements were being deployed.
Russia is close to capturing all of Luhansk, one of two southern Ukrainian regions that make up the swathe of land known as the Donbas, but has been plagued by setbacks elsewhere since its invasion.
Meanwhile, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu claimed that Russian forces will “accelerate” the “special military operation” in Ukraine in a meeting with Chechen Leader Ramzan Kadyrov, the Institute for War (ISW) reports.
However the US-based think tank, which analyses the ongoing military situation on the ground, said Russian forces were “unlikely to be able to do so” despite the minister’s claim.
Russian forces had been capturing more and more of Severodonetsk in recent days, so the Ukrainian recapture of a chunk of the city is notable should the claims be true.
Governor Hayday added: “As soon as we have enough Western long-range weapons, we will push their artillery away from our positions.
“And then, believe me, the Russian infantry, they will just run,” he added.
Ukrainian officials are counting on advanced missile systems that the United States and Britain recently pledged to swing the war in their favour, and Ukrainian troops have already begun training on them.
In the south of the country, there remain concerns over millions of tons of Ukrainian grain languishing in silos amid claims that Russian ships are blockading Black Sea ports.
Russian President Vladimir Putin denied on Friday that Moscow was preventing Ukrainian ports from exporting grain, blaming rising global food prices on the West.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Poland is scouring Europe for train cars and containers in the hope of easing the flow of grain out of Ukraine.
There have been fears that the ongoing conflict will spark a global food crisis as Ukraine and Russia are two of the world’s biggest exporters of grain.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko – a key Kremlin ally – says he is ready to allow the transit of Ukraine’s grain to Baltic Sea ports via Belarus if it is allowed to ship Belarusian goods from these ports, it has been reported.
Meanwhile, in occupied Kherson, local resistance has pro-Russian officials moving with a lot of security, wearing armoured vests, the Ukrainian Navy claims.