Ukraine’s counter-offensive is gaining momentum and the occupied southern city of Kherson is virtually cut off from other Russian-held territories, according to a report released Thursday by the British Ministry of Defence.
Ukraine recently used its new long-range artillery to damage at least three of the bridges over the Dnipro River – bridges that Russia relies on to supply areas under its control, according to the assessment.
“The Russian 49th Army is stationed on the western bank of the Dnipro River and now looks very vulnerable,” the assessment said.
“We won’t stop until we liberate the last meter of our Ukrainian land,” President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said. “We won’t rest until we liberate our last village.”
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►Russian forces on Thursday launched massive missile strikes on Ukraine’s Kyiv and Chernihiv regions, areas that have not been targeted for weeks.
►Ukrainian officials have announced an operation to liberate an occupied region in the south of the country.
►Ukraine celebrated Statehood Day, a national holiday created after the start of the invasion. “We will fight for our state to the last – the last breath, the last bullet, the last soldier, but not ours – that of the enemy,” President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said.
►UEFA, football’s governing body in Europe, said it was carrying out a disciplinary investigation against Turkish club Fenerbahçe after its supporters chanted the name of Russian President Vladimir Putin during a qualifying match in the Champions League on Wednesday against Ukrainian Dynamo Kyiv.
There is no precise total of the number of casualties – including dead and wounded – that Russia and Ukraine suffered during the war, and both sides have reasons to falsify the figures.
But a current estimate recently shared with US lawmakers hints at the huge toll the Kremlin is paying for its invasion.
“We have been informed that over 75,000 Russians have been killed or injured, which is huge,” said Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin of Michigan, who sits on the House Armed Services Committee. told CNN. “…More than 80% of their ground forces are bogged down and fatigued.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissed that figure on Thursday, saying it did not come directly from the Biden administration. Russia hasn’t provided any casualty numbers for more than four months and tends to play down its losses.
Last week, CIA Director William Burns put the Russian death toll in the war at 15,000 and up to 45,000 wounded. That 60,000 total is 20% lower than the new estimate, a significant but not huge difference after another week of fighting. The 75,000 casualties, if accurate, represent half of the 150,000 troops the United States said Russia initially committed to the war.
Russian officials acknowledged on Thursday that discussions regarding the possible release of WNBA basketball star Brittney Griner took place, but said they should not be conducted in a public arena.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the talks had “not yet brought any concrete results”. Asked about the US announcement, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said prisoner swaps were usually negotiated behind the scenes and stressed that “no deal has been finalized.”
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday that the United States put a “substantial proposal on the table weeks ago” that would free Griner and fellow American Paul Whelan. Blinken did not reveal details of the potential prisoner swap, but CNN reported that the United States offered Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer nicknamed “the Death Dealer.”
Griner, 31, was arrested for drug trafficking at a Moscow airport in February after cannabis oil was found in her luggage. She pleaded guilty to a drug charge that could carry a 10-year prison sentence.
Kyiv regional governor Oleksiy Kuleba said on Telegram that a settlement in the region’s Vyshgorod district was targeted early Thursday; an “infrastructure object” has been hit. It was not immediately clear if there were any casualties. Chernihiv Governor Vyacheslav Chaus at the same time reported that several missiles were fired from the territory of Belarus at the community of Honcharivska.
Russian troops withdrew from the Kyiv and Chernihiv regions months ago, failing to capture them. The resumption of strikes on the areas comes a day after the leader of pro-Kremlin separatists in the east, Denis Pushilin, publicly called on Russian forces to “liberate Russian cities founded by the Russian people – Kyiv, Chernihiv, Poltava , Odessa, Dnipropetrovsk , Kharkiv, Zaporizhzhia, Lutsk.
Meanwhile, Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, also came under a deluge of shelling overnight, Mayor Ihor Terekhov said. The southern town of Mykolaiv also came under fire, and one person was injured.
British energy giant Shell more than doubled its profits from the second quarter of last year while shattering the profit record it set earlier this year, benefiting from soaring oil prices and natural gas caused by Russia’s war in Ukraine.
The London-based company said its April-June adjusted profit – which excludes one-time items and fluctuations in inventory value – climbed to $11.5 billion, from $5.5 billion during of the same months in 2021.
The first quarter of 2022 – partly impacted by the threat of war before Russia launches its invasion on February 24 – generated a strong adjusted profit of $9.1 billion. The war drove up oil and natural gas prices as nations rejected Russian energy and supply cuts caused turmoil in world markets.
Contribute: The Associated Press