KYIV, Sept 18 (Reuters) – President Volodymyr Zelenskyi said on Sunday his forces had recaptured an eastern village on the southern flank of Bakhmut, in what would be Ukraine’s second major gain in three days in its grueling counteroffensive against the Russian military.
“Today I would like to especially praise the soldiers who are returning to Ukraine step by step what belongs to it, namely in the Bakhmut region,” Zelensky said in his nightly video address to the nation.
The fierce battle for the village of Klishchiivka, on high ground about 9 km (6 miles) south of Bakhmut, has lasted for weeks and comes after Kiev said on Friday it had gained control of the small nearby village of Andriivka.
The gains were among the most significant in a Ukrainian counteroffensive that began in June and sought to break through entrenched Russian lines.
Oleksandr Syrskyi, the commander of Ukraine’s ground forces, who is also in operational control of the counteroffensive, released a video of Ukrainian forces hoisting a blue-and-yellow national flag on destroyed buildings with the sound of fighting in the background.
“Klishchiivka has been cleared of Russians,” Syrskyi, who often visited the Bakhmut front line to suggest strategy and boost soldiers’ morale, said on the Telegram messaging app.
Reuters could not verify the Ukrainian reports, and Moscow did not immediately comment. The Russian Defense Ministry said at its daily briefing on Sunday that its forces were continuing to attack near Klishivka, which had a population of about 400 before the war.
Ukrainian military analysts said this week that the liberation of settlements near Bakhmut will allow the army to advance from its southern flank in the Bakhmut area.
“Ukraine will always get its own back,” Zelensky chief of staff Andriy Jermak wrote in Telegram.
Zelensky thanked the successful units, which, according to him, are the 80th Airborne Assault Brigade, the 5th Assault Brigade, the “famous 95.” and the National Police Assault Brigade.
Ilia Yevlash, a spokesman for Ukrainian troops in the east, said the battle had caused “great damage” to Russian airborne troops, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov’s “Akhmat” battalion, Storm-Z made up of Russian criminals, military intelligence of the Russian General Staff. and motorized rifle units.
“So now we have gained a base that will allow us to continue developing offensive actions and free our country from invaders,” Yevlash wrote on Telegram.
Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said Russia was still trying to regain lost positions in the village.
“We had to fend off enemy attacks all day today,” she said.
Russia has controlled Klischiivka since January. Moscow still controls large parts of Ukrainian land in the east and south.
Klishchiivka, like Andriivka and other settlements in eastern Ukraine, was turned into a ruble during the long months of fighting for Bakhmut, which fell into Russian hands in May.
Reporting by Pavel Polityuk, Nick Starkov and Elaine Monaghan; Screenplay: Elaine Monaghan and Lidia Kelly; Editing by Diane Craft and Stephen Coates
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