President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Sunday his forces had recaptured an eastern village on the southern flank of Bakhmut, in what would be Ukraine’s second significant gain in three days in its gruelling counteroffensive against the Russian army.
The heavy fight for the Klishchiivka village, spread on higher grounds about 9 km (6 miles) south of Bakhmut, has taken weeks and comes after Kyiv said on Friday it had gained control of a tiny nearby village of Andriivka.
The gains have been among the most significant in Ukraine’s counteroffensive, which began in June and has struggled to break through entrenched Russian lines.
Oleksandr Syrskyi, commander of Ukraine’s ground forces who is also in operational control of the counteroffensive, posted a video of Ukrainian forces displaying the blue and yellow national flag on ruined buildings with the sound of fighting in the background.
Reuters could not verify the Ukrainian reports and there was no immediate comment from Moscow. On Sunday, Russia’s defence ministry said in its daily briefing that its forces kept up their attacks near Klishchiivka, which had a pre-war population of around 400.
Ukrainian military analysts said this week the liberation of settlements near Bakhmut would allow the military to advance from the southern flank in the Bakhmut area.
Ilia Yevlash, spokesperson for Ukrainian troops in the east, said the battle inflicted “powerful damage” on Russian airborne units, the “Akhmat” battalion of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, Storm-Z made up of Russian criminals, the Russian General Staff’s military intelligence, and motorised rifle units.
Ukrainian Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Maliar said Russia was still trying to regain lost positions at the village.
Russia has been in control of Klishchiivka since January. Moscow still controls large swaths of Ukraine’s land in the east and south.
Klishchiivka, just like Andriivka and other settlements in eastern Ukraine, has been turned into ruble in the long months of the fight for Bakhmut, which fell into Russian hands in May.