SOUTH-Eastern Ukraine: Russia on Thursday announced plans to hold elections in occupied parts of Ukraine in just three months, Moscow’s latest attempt to signal it is under control even as a Ukrainian counteroffensive has pushed its forces back in some areas.
The Ukrainian offensive is in its early stages, and military experts say the decisive battles are still ahead. But the charred corpses of Russian soldiers and armored vehicles by the side of the road in villages recently recaptured by Ukrainian forces testify to the biggest advance in Kiev since last year.
“Our heroic people and our troops… are on the front line facing stiff resistance,” the Ukrainian president said. Volodymyr Zelensky In an interview with NBC News in Kiev. “Because Russia losing this campaign for Ukraine, in my opinion, means actually losing the war.”
The news from the front lines has been “generally positive but very difficult,” Zelensky said, according to a partial transcript of the interview.
Continuing his campaign for military aid, Zelensky In a video address, he urged the Swiss parliament to allow other countries to re-export Swiss-made weapons to Ukraine, saying such a move by the neutral country would be vital.
Reuters reached the villages of Neskushin and Storozhev over the past two days, providing the first independent confirmation of a Ukrainian advance several kilometers south along the Mokry Yali river into territory Russia had occupied since the early days of its invasion last year.
Several corpses of Russian soldiers were scattered in the streets of destroyed and deserted villages. Ukrainian forces in Storozhev told Reuters they had killed about 50 Russians and captured four there.
Ukraine’s military, which has been completely silent about the campaign for more than a week, came forward to announce the gains on Thursday, holding its first full briefing since the counteroffensive began.
Brigadier General Oleksey Hurumov said the forces have captured at least seven settlements and 100 square kilometers of territory in two major offensives in the south so far.
“We are ready to continue fighting to liberate our lands, even with our bare hands,” he said.
The army on the southern front had advanced by up to 7 kilometers (4.4 mi) in the area along Mokry Yali, and also by up to 3 kilometers (1.8 mi) on another axis to the west near the village of Mala Tokmachka, Ukrainian military officials said.
They also described advances in the east around the devastated city of Bakhmut, which Moscow captured last month as its only major prize in a massive winter-spring offensive that saw Europe’s bloodiest ground battles since World War Two.
Russian President Vladimir Putin insisted this week that Moscow’s goals in Ukraine had not changed. He claimed that the Russian forces had caused 10 times more casualties among the Ukrainians than they had suffered.
African plan
He is set to mediate African leaders whose countries have been hit hard by the repercussions of the war, which has disrupted grain and other food supplies, exacerbated food price inflation and exacerbated the hunger crisis.
Senegalese President Macky Sall and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa are leading a delegation that includes leaders from Zambia and Comoros and the Egyptian prime minister, who will travel to Kiev on Friday and St. Petersburg on Saturday.
They could propose a series of “confidence-building measures” during their initial efforts, according to a draft framework document seen by Reuters on Thursday.
Russia’s announcement of a plan to hold elections in occupied territories was Moscow’s latest effort to signal that the situation is stable.
Russia’s state Tass news agency quoted election chief Ella Pamfilova as saying that the defense ministries and the Federal Security Service (FSB) had concluded that the vote would be possible to take place in September.
Russia announced its annexation of four Ukrainian provinces last year, though it does not fully control any of them and does not hold the major population centers of two.
Kiev says any elections held by the Russians on Ukrainian soil will be null and void.
The big test of the Ukrainian offensive is still ahead. Russia had months to prepare its defences. Not yet reaching the heaviest Russian defensive fortifications, Ukrainian forces retreated from the front line.
Kiev is believed to have prepared an assault force of around 12 brigades numbering thousands of soldiers, mostly using newly arrived Western armored vehicles. Only a fraction of them have participated so far.
For its part, Russia has published pictures of Western tanks and armored vehicles, which it says it has destroyed or captured.
The head of the United Nations Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Grossi, visited the Russian-controlled region Zaporizhia Nuclear plant He said the situation at the site was “serious” but that the level of cooling water was sufficient after last week’s devastating breach at the Kakhovka Dam downstream on the Dnipro River.


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