Ukraine said on Monday its forces had retaken more territory on the eastern front and were advancing south in their counter-offensive against Russian forces, as President Volodymyr Zelensky visited two front-line regions.
Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said that last week Ukrainian forces retook about three square kilometers of territory around the eastern city of Bakhmut, which Russian forces seized in May after months of fierce fighting.
Maliar also spoke of an unspecified success in the villages of Novodanilevka and Novoprokopivka in Zaporizhia region in the south, but she didn’t give details.
She wrote on Telegram that Ukraine had so far regained about 47 square kilometers of territory around Bakhmut since launching its counter-offensive in early June.
Russia on the other hand, hasn’t confirmed the Ukrainian claims, as both sides consider control of small villages or pockets of new successes.
Videos posted on the Ukrainian presidency’s website on Monday showed Zelensky visiting troops in the eastern Donetsk region, where Bakhmut is located, and in the Zaporizhia region, where Kiev’s forces are trying to advance south toward the Sea of Azov.
Zelensky was shown presenting medals to soldiers at a number of locations and thanking doctors at a field hospital on the southern front.
In his nightly speech from the train, the president said the soldiers’ comments about the course of the conflict would be taken seriously.
“Everything our fighters talked about will be presented to the participants in the leadership meetings, especially with regard to electronic warfare… We heard you clearly guys,” he said.
Officials in Kiev are exasperated by criticism from Western media reports that the counterattack is too slow and undermined by poor planning, especially the deployment of forces in too many locations.
Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said last week that critics should “shut up”.
Ukraine regained a number of villages and residential communities in its three-month offensive, but Russian minefields and trenches extending over vast areas impeded the progress of its soldiers.
According to Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar, last week that Ukrainian forces had breached the first line of Russian defenses, and that the Ukrainian army now expected to advance more quickly.
Russia continued to launch air strikes on Ukrainian targets, including port infrastructure, and announced drone attacks on its territory.
The Russian Defense Ministry’s Telegram channel on Monday quoted an officer codenamed Hedgehog as saying, “The enemy is attacking in a powerful and dangerous way, but we are steadfast… We won’t let them pass”.
The Mayor of Moscow also announced that the Russian air defense systems destroyed, early Tuesday morning, three drones that were flying towards the Russian capital.
Sergei Sobyanin said that according to preliminary information, there were no casualties, adding on Telegram that the air defense forces destroyed drones that were trying to launch an attack on Moscow.
The Russian Ministry of Defense confirmed that one of the planes was flying over the Kaluga region, southwest of Moscow, while the second was destroyed northwest of the capital, over the Astrinsky region.
The third was destroyed over the Tver region northwest of Moscow.
“The air defense systems, while in service, destroyed a drone over the territory of the Kaluga region,” the Russian Ministry of Defense said on Telegra, Adding that “a Ukrainian drone was destroyed by air defense systems in service over the territory of the Astrinsky region, and another drone was intercepted over the territory of the Tver region”.
The Moscow region has been repeatedly attacked by Ukrainian drones in recent weeks, according to Russian authorities.