KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukraine’s forces have recaptured a village in the country’s east after intense battles with Russian troops, the military said Friday as the invaded nation pursues a multi-pronged counteroffensive.
The village of Andriivka is located about 10 kilometers (6 miles) south of the Russian-occupied city of Bakhmut, the scene of the longest battle of Russia’s war on Ukraine. Its liberation would represent another gain for Kyiv in Ukraine’s campaign to oust Moscow’s troops from territory they captured.
The General Staff of Ukraine’s armed forces announced the reclaiming of Andriivka early Friday. There was no confirmation or comment from Russia authorities.
Ukrainian forces launched their much-anticipated counteroffensive more than three months ago. The reported victory in the Donetsk province village illustrates progress and the challenges they face even with supplies of NATO-standard gear and Western weapons.
The approaching wet weather of winter will likely slow Ukrainian advances. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is expected to visit Washington next week as Congress debates whether to approve more aid for Ukraine.
The 3rd Assault Brigade said it took Andriivka after surrounding the Russian garrison in the village during what it described as a “lightning operation” and destroying it over two days. It called the successful action a breakthrough on the southern flank of Bakhmut and “key to success in all further directions.”
The brigade initially contested a statement by Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar saying the village was reclaimed but confirmed early Friday that it had recaptured Andriivka.
“It was difficult and yesterday’s situation changed very dynamically several times,” Maliar said.
Maliar said Ukraine had regained 50 square kilometers (19 square miles) of land around Bakhmut since the start of the counteroffensive in June.
The eight months of fighting for control of Bakhmut, a city known for salt mining that is now in complete ruins, comprised the longest and likely bloodiest battle of the war in Ukraine. Russian forces led by mercenaries from the Wagner Group captured Bakhmut in May.
In late June, Wagner leader Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin led his fighters from eastern Ukraine and into Russia as part of a short-lived mutiny. Prigozhin and several of his top lieutenants died in a plane crash while traveling between Moscow and St. Petersburg last month.
Ukrainian forces are trying to envelop Bakhmut from the south and the north and have gained ground meter by meter (yard by yard) in the past three months.Military analysts and U.S. officials have questioned the expenditure of forces around the city, but Ukrainian military leaders have said they were successfully exhausting Russian forces by keeping them fixed in position.
Andriivka is located between the settlements of Kurdiumivka and the heights of Klischiivka in the Donetsk region, where fighting has been especially intense. Ukraine’s General Staff said Ukrainian forces also inflicted heavy losses on Russian troops in the nearby village of Klishchiivka as part of the counteroffensive.
The recapture of Andriivka comes weeks after an important tactical victory for Ukrainian forces in the southern Zaporizhzhia region, where they punctured through Russia’s first line of defense and recaptured the village of Robotyne.
The gains in the south are considered more strategically significant since they bring Ukraine’s troops closer to the shores of the Sea of Azov, where they could try to cut the land corridor to the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia seized from Ukraine in 2014. Isolating Crimea would divide the Russian-occupied territory in southern Ukraine and undermine Russian supply lines.
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