The Ukrainian army reported the recapture of a southeastern town on Sunday, as Russian forces claimed to have repelled multiple attacks in the area. The president’s top adviser Volodymyr Zelenskyy said six people had been injured after Moscow troops opened fire on a ship evacuating people from Russian-occupied areas to Ukrainian territory along a flooded front line far to the south.
The clash on the southeastern battlefield and chaotic scenes in flooded southern Ukraine marked the latest turmoil and bloodshed in Russia’s 16-month-old war in Ukraine.
Andriy Yermak, the president’s chief of staff, wrote on his Telegram account that the injured were taken to a hospital in the southern city of Kherson, on the western bank of the swollen Dnieper River. An Associated Press crew on the scene watched as three ambulances dropped off evacuated wounded at a hospital, one of whom was splattered with blood and was carried on a stretcher to the emergency room.
Many civilians have claimed that the Russian authorities in the occupied areas were forcing potential evacuees to present Russian passports before taking them to safety. Since then, many small boats have moved from Ukrainian-controlled areas on the west bank across the river – which has been flooded since a dam burst on Tuesday – to rescue desperate civilians trapped on rooftops, attics and other islands dry in the middle of the flood.
To the northeast, nearly halfway along the front line of more than 1,000 kilometers (600 miles), Ukrainian forces said they had driven Russian fighters out of the village of Blahodatne in the partially occupied Donetsk region. The Ukrainian 68th Separate Fighter Brigade posted a video on Facebook showing soldiers installing a Ukrainian flag on a damaged building in the town.
Myroslav Semeniuk, the spokesman for the brigade, told The Associated Press that a strike team captured six Russian soldiers after entering several buildings where about 60 soldiers were hiding. “The enemy keeps bombing us, but this will not stop us,” Semeniuk said. “The next town we plan to recapture is Urozhayne. Then, (we will continue) further south.”
Zelenskyy said on Saturday that Ukrainian counter-offensive actions were underway. But while the recapture of Blahodatne pointed to a small Ukrainian breakthrough, Western and Ukrainian leaders have repeatedly warned that efforts to push out Russian troops more broadly are expected to take time. Russia has been very insistent that its troops have resisted elsewhere.
On Sunday, the Russian Defense Ministry continued to insist that it was repelling Ukrainian attacks in the area. It said in a statement that Ukrainian attempts at offensive operations on the southern Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia axes of the front line in the past 24 hours had been “unsuccessful.”
Vladimir Rogov, a Russian-installed official in the Zaporizhzhia region, insisted that Blahodatne and two other towns in the region were in a “grey area” as to who controls them. However, Rogov claimed in a Telegram message that the Russian fighters had been forced to leave the town of Neskuchne in the Donetsk region. In one video, fighters identifying themselves as members of a Ukrainian volunteer force claimed to have taken over the village.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has claimed that the Ukrainian counter-offensive has begun and that Ukrainian forces are suffering “significant losses.”