The commander of Ukraine’s ground forces has claimed the recapture of another village in the east of the country has helped Kyiv’s forces break through part of Russia’s defensive lines around the devastated city of Bakhmut.
The area has been a key part of Ukraine’s counteroffensive to try and reclaim territory occupied by Russia as part of its near-19-month invasion. Bakhmut has been the scene for some of the bloodiest fighting of the war and in the process taking on symbolic importance for both Russia and Ukraine far greater than its size.
Retaking Klishchiivka is considered tactically important as it will allow Ukrainian forces to further extend their gains around Bakhmut and keep pushing forward.
The recapture of Klishchiivka, announced by president Volodymyr Zelensky on Sunday night, gave Kyiv their second notable counteroffensive victory in three days – following the village of Andriivka (about two miles from Klishchiivka) being retaken on Friday.
“These settlements, at first glance small, were important elements in the enemy’s defensive line which stretched from Bakhmut to Horlivka,” general Oleksandr Syrskyi said on the Telegram messaging app. “As a result of our troops’ successful actions, the enemy’s defensive line – which it tried to close by throwing all available reserves into battle – was breached.”
General Syrskyi said Russian troops were still trying to regain the positions they had lost in the Bakhmut sector, and that fighting there was heavy.
Illia 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, the Russian General Staff’s military intelligence, and motorised rifle units.
“So, now we have gained a base that will allow us to continue to develop offensive actions and liberate our land from the invaders,” Mr Yevlash wrote on Telegram.
Away from the battlefield, Mr Zelensky dismissed six deputy defence ministers on Monday following the appointment of a new defence minister earlier this month.
While there was no reason given for the removals, such moves are common after a new minister’s appointment. Those removed included Hanna Maliar, who frequently issues public updates on Russia’s war on Ukraine.
Rustem Umerov became defence minister less than two weeks ago, replacing Oleksii Reznikov. The ministry had been dogged by media allegations of corruption while Mr Reznikov was in the post although he faced no corruption allegations himself.
“Rebooting. We [have] started. We continue. [The] Ministry continues to work as usual,” Mr Umerov said in a Facebook post.
The Ukrainska Pravda news site quoted unnamed government sources as saying all the deputy ministers had resigned voluntarily following a request by Mr Umerov.
Elsewhere, six civilians were killed and 16 injured in Russian attacks over the previous 24 hours, Ukrainian officials said. The attacks struck eight cities and villages in the Donetsk region, including Avdiivka and Kurdiumivka, killing one and wounding four, according to local officials. Five artillery attacks in Kherson killed one person and wounded another. In the nearby town of Beryslav, Russians dropped explosives from a drone near the local bus station, injuring four people, the presidential office said.
The Russian state news agency RIA also reported that a series of blasts had been heard at the headquarters of the Russian-installed local authorities in the Russian-held city of Donetsk
Kyiv also claimed to have intercepted all 17 cruise missiles launched by Russia and 18 of 24 Shahed drones in the southern regions of Mykolaiv and Odesa early Monday.
Reuters and Associated Press contributed to this report