The Russian military says it has killed almost 600 Ukrainian soldiers with air and artillery strikes. “Near the village of Bilohirka in the Kherson region, the temporary location of the 46th Ukrainian air assault brigade was hit by airstrikes and artillery fire,” Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said on Saturday. More than 400 “nationalists” were killed.
In addition, more than 70 other soldiers were killed and 150 injured by rocket attacks on the front in Cherson. More than 80 “foreign mercenaries” died in rocket attacks in the Dnipropetrovsk region. Konashenkov also reported on the destruction of several artillery systems in Ukraine. A battery of “Olcha” and Himars rocket launchers was destroyed. Himars are long-range, accurate US multiple rocket launchers. In the past, Moscow has repeatedly reported that these weapon systems have been taken out of action. Kyiv and Washington later denied this. There is also no independent confirmation for Konashenkov’s current report.
A new phase of the war
Earlier on Saturday, Britain’s Ministry of Defense announced that the war in Ukraine was about to enter a new phase, according to British military intelligence. Most of the fighting was therefore shifted to a front almost 350 kilometers long, which stretched in the south-west parallel to the Dnieper from the area around Zaporizhia to Cherson.
On its Telegram channel, the Ukrainian state nuclear authority Energoatom also announced on Saturday that one of the nuclear reactors had been shut down after the Russian-occupied Ukrainian nuclear power plant Zaporizhia was shelled. The “emergency protection system” was triggered by the air raids and the reactor was switched off. It was previously said that there was a further increased risk of fire and radiation. “The Zaporizhia nuclear power plant works with the risk of violating the norms of radiation and fire protection.” Both warring parties blame each other for the attack on the facility. A nitrogen system and an auxiliary body of the power plant were damaged by the shelling the day before. “There is still a risk of hydrogen escaping and radioactive particles spreading, and the risk of fire is also high,” reported Energoatom. The Ukrainian power plant personnel are trying to ensure the nuclear safety of the plant even under these conditions. However, the threat of occupation of the power plant by Russian troops remains high. The Ministry of Climate Protection reports that there is currently no danger for Austria.
On Friday, the plant in the city of Enerhodar in the Zaporizhia region caught fire due to shelling, but it was extinguished. A block of the nuclear power plant had to be shut down. The power supply in the city was partially lost. While Moscow blamed Ukrainian troops, Kyiv said the Russians had shelled the area themselves. The information cannot be verified independently.
Meanwhile, the Kremlin-critical Internet medium “The Insider” reported on a possible mining of the power plant. A video that is said to have been shot earlier this week shows Russian military trucks driving onto the factory site and unloading goods there. One of the trucks drives into the machine room of the plant. According to “The Insider”, either the power plant itself or the area around it was mined. For weeks there has been criticism that the Russian troops are using the nuclear power plant as a protective shield for their own artillery, which is shelling Ukrainian-controlled areas from there. “The EU condemns Russia’s military activities around the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant. This is a serious and irresponsible breach of nuclear safety rules and another example of Russia’s disregard of international norms,” said EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell. He demanded access for the International Atomic Energy Agency to the facility.
Russian forces began their invasion of the neighboring country on February 24th. The leadership in Moscow describes it as a special military operation. According to the Russian interpretation, this serves to protect the Russian-speaking population in Ukraine and to exterminate dangerous nationalists. Ukraine and the West speak of an unprovoked war of aggression by Russia.
Since the capture of the Luhansk Oblast, Russian attacks in eastern Ukraine have focused on the neighboring Donetsk Oblast. The invaders have gradually been able to push back the Ukrainian defenders over the past few weeks. They now control about 60 percent of the territory. The headquarters of the Ukrainian troops in the Donbass is located in the Sloviansk-Kramatorsk conurbation, where a good half a million people lived before the war. This area is secured from the east by the Siwersk – Soledar – Bakhmut line of fortifications. This is now faltering in several places. Russian troops are also in front of Siwersk and Soledar. However, the heaviest fighting is currently taking place around the Bachmut traffic junction.
The fighting is also continuing in front of the former regional capital of Donetsk, which has been in the hands of pro-Russian separatists since 2014. The troops loyal to Moscow are trying to push the Ukrainians further away. In the area around the small town of Avdiivka north of Donetsk, there had been several attempted attacks that had been repelled, the General Staff reported. The area is bombarded extensively with artillery. In the south of the country, however, the initiative is passed to the Ukrainians. According to the situation report from Kyiv, the Russian troops there are concentrating on defending their positions. The Southern Command of the Ukrainian military previously reported that it had destroyed at least six Russian arms and ammunition depots and two command posts in the Kherson region. There is no independent confirmation for this information either.
Meanwhile, Pope Francis met Kiev’s Vatican Ambassador Andriy Yurasch on Saturday. The Vatican announced this without providing any details, Kathpress reported on Saturday. Before the meeting with the Ukraine representative, there was a conversation between the Pope and the Moscow Patriarchate’s foreign affairs officer, Metropolitan Antony (Sevryuk), on Friday. He is considered a close confidant of the Russian Orthodox Patriarch Cyril I. The Vatican has not yet commented on the meeting.
It is unclear whether the talks were also about a possible meeting between Francis and Cyril I in Kazakhstan in September. Both have their participation in the 14./15. September interfaith congress in the capital Nur-Sultan confirmed. Plans for a meeting of the two church leaders in Jerusalem in July had been canceled. Ukraine Ambassador Jurasch made a clear statement in mid-July: “We diplomats are doing everything we can to prevent the meeting.” It will benefit neither the ecumenical dialogue nor the office of the Pope, Jurasch continued; because it was “a meeting with the devil’s advocate”. There is also speculation as to whether Francis will travel to Ukraine before Kazakhstan. (apa/dpa/reuters/afp)