KYIV, June 12 (Reuters) – Ukraine’s top military command said on Monday its forces were engaged in heavy fighting in frontline hot spots, as the defense ministry said several villages had been liberated from Russian encroachment in the opening stages of a counteroffensive.
About 25 battles took place in the past day near the eastern city of Pakmut, and further south near Avdiyvka and Marinka, all in Donetsk region, but also near Pylohorivka in Luhansk region, the General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces said.
Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar on Monday released a photo showing soldiers raising a Ukrainian flag in the village of Storoshev in Donetsk, and thanked the Marines’ 35th Separate Brigade for liberating it.
Reuters could not verify the report and it was not immediately clear when the village had been recovered.
On Sunday, Ukraine said its troops advanced on three villages in Donetsk: Blahodatne, Neskuchne and Makarivka. Storozheve is located between Blahodatne and Neskuchne.
There was no immediate comment from Russian officials.
Some prominent Russian military bloggers noted that fighting for Makharivka was underway when Ukrainian forces captured Blahodtne and Neskuchne.
Both sides have said their forces have inflicted heavy personnel and equipment losses on their opponents over the past week as Ukraine’s counteroffensive began to take shape.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Friday that Ukraine had failed to breach Russian security, while his defense ministry said Ukraine had destroyed several Leopard 2 tanks and other equipment it had received from the West.
While remaining silent for the past week about its counteroffensive, Ukraine’s military has recorded daily battlefield successes.
“In the last week in the Pakmut direction, the Russian invaders have suffered significant losses,” the general staff said on Monday.
The governor of Ukraine’s Donetsk region said one civilian was killed and two others were wounded by Russian gunfire in the Avtivka region on Sunday.
Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said Kyiv intends to discuss the details of the “air alliance” with its allies at the next meeting of Ukraine’s Defense Liaison Committee in Brussels on June 15.
Zelenskiy has long called for Ukraine to receive US-made F-16 fighter jets and train Ukrainian pilots.
“At this stage, we are talking about training for pilots and our technicians and engineers,” said Reznikov of Ukraine’s military media center.
Reporting by Pavel Polityuk in Kyiv, Anna Bruchnicka in Gdansk and Lydia Kelly in Melbourne; Editing by Robert Birsal & Simon Cameron-Moore
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