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Zelensky says Ukrainian forces are advancing south and taking ‘the lead’

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky gives a speech after meeting with Czech President Petr Pavel, at Prague Castle in Prague, Czech Republic, on July 6.STRINGER/Reuters

Ukrainian forces continued their campaign on Sunday to recapture Russian-controlled areas in the southeast, as President Volodymyr Zelensky said in radio statements that his country’s forces had “seized the initiative” after an earlier slowdown.

Russian reports said fierce battles broke out in areas outside the eastern town of Bakhmut, which was captured by Russian mercenary forces Wagner in May after months of fighting. Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov said one of his units had been deployed in the area.

Ukraine, equipped with increasingly sophisticated Western weaponry after more than 500 days of war, has launched a predictable counter-offensive that has so far focused on capturing a cluster of villages in the southwest. His forces are also trying to recover the areas around Bakhmut.

Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar said on the messaging application Telegram that fierce fighting broke out in two regions in the southeast of the country.

“We are consolidating our gains in these areas,” she wrote.

He said Russian forces were defending Bakhmut while Ukrainian forces were making “some progress” on the southern side of the city.

There was no change of position in northern Bakhmut, and Ukrainian forces remained engaged in heavy fighting west of Bakhmut and near Liman, north of the Donetsk region.

Zelensky was interviewed on US ABC ahead of this week’s NATO summit in Lithuania, where Kiev hopes to receive firm indications of future membership in the Western defense alliance and guarantees about its security.

Zelensky acknowledged that the advance was slower than he and his generals wanted, but said it was Ukrainian forces that took the initiative.

“We all want to do it faster because every day means new losses for the Ukrainians. We are moving forward. We are not stuck,” he said, noting that the army went through “a kind of crisis” in the previous months.

“We would all like to carry out the counterattack in a shorter time. But there is one fact. Today, the initiative is on our side.”

Attention has focused in recent days on the village of Kleshovka, located in the southern Bakhmut Uplands.

Chechen leader Kadyrov said in a telegram that his Akhmat unit was “in a difficult area of ​​Bakhmut”. He posted a video of a commander atop an armored vehicle near Klishchiivka.

Russian reports in recent days said that Mr. Kadyrov, whose forces have been active since the start of the Russian invasion, was sick, injured, or “on vacation.”

Reuters could not independently verify the reports about Kadyrov or reports from the battlefield.

The Russian Defense Ministry said its forces had repulsed the Ukrainian advance near Bakhmut, where the fighting became difficult “not only because of the intensity of firing and daily fighting, but also because of the terrain.” The line of communication passes between two hills. ”

Ukrainian military analyst Denis Popovich said that Ukrainian forces had taken “important positions near Klychevka.

“This will allow the artillery to take control of Klychevka itself, parts of Bakhmut and the supply routes,” he told Ukrainian Radio Nevada. “Just as Wagner besieged the city, so do we.”

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