Kremlin-installed officials in eastern Ukraine have tightened security in occupied parts of Donetsk region as Kyiv said its military had broken through Russia’s lines in southeastern Ukraine and injured senior Russian officers in a missile strike on Crimea.
Denis Pushilin, whom Moscow calls the head of the “Donetsk People’s Republic”, on Sunday announced a weekday curfew from 11pm to 4am for most residents of occupied parts of Donetsk region, along with “military censorship” of post and electronic messages and monitoring of telephone calls – and a ban on demonstrations and strikes.
No explanation was given for the measures but they come after several successful high-profile operations by the Ukrainian military and claims that it is retaking territory near the occupied city of Bakhmut in Donetsk region and to the south in Zaporizhzhia province.
Oleksandr Tarnavskiy, the general leading Ukraine’s counteroffensive in Zaporizhzhia, said that near the village of Verbove “we have a breakthrough and we continue to advance further”.
Ukraine’s progress was “not as fast as it was expected, not like in the movies about the second World War…The main thing is not to lose this initiative,” he told CNN, adding that a bigger breakthrough would come when his troops reached Tokmak, a road and rail hub about 30km southwest of Verbove.
Ukraine’s forces liberated the destroyed villages of Andriivka and Klishchiivka south of Bakhmut in the past fortnight, and are trying to destroy enemy supply lines into a city that Russian forces led by the Wagner mercenary group seized in May after months of fighting.
“One of the roads that we can already hit is the Bakhmut-Horlivka road, which is 3km from the contact line – this is within the working range of our mortars and drones,” Ukrainian military spokesman Illia Yevlash said on Sunday. “The enemy still has a few other logistical routes left by which it supplies its Bakhmut grouping…But we continue to cut these lines and will keep doing so further, to bleed dry the Russian grouping in this area and subject it to as many losses as possible.”
Moscow did not respond to Kyiv’s claim that a missile strike on the headquarters of Russia’s Black Sea fleet in Crimea, which the Kremlin illegally annexed in 2014, resulted in “dozens of dead and wounded occupiers, including the senior leadership of the fleet”.
Ukrainian military intelligence chief Kyrylo Budanov said Friday’s attack killed at least nine people and injured 16, including Russian generals. Moscow said the strike, reportedly with cruise missiles provided by the West, left only one person “missing”.
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy visited the United States and Canada in recent days to shore up support for his country and seek more air defence systems and other weapons before a winter in which Russia is expected to target Ukraine’s power grid. US media reported that the US agreed to give Kyiv ATACMS missiles, which have a range of 300km, though this was not confirmed by the White House.
Russia insists it is in control of the battlefield situation and dismisses Ukraine’s counteroffensive as a costly failure.
Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov told the United Nations General Assembly on Saturday that a 10-point peace plan devised by Mr Zelenskiy was “not feasible” and proposals from UN secretary general Antonio Guterres to bring Moscow back into a deal to safeguard Ukrainian grain shipments were “simply not realistic”.
Ukraine has established a “temporary humanitarian corridor” for shipping to bypass Russia’s naval blockade of the Black Sea. Two ships carrying a total of about 20,000 tonnes of grain reached Turkey via this route in recent days, and three more ships are preparing to load in Ukrainian ports.