Ukraine promises not to give up ‘a single centimeter’ to Russia in east

Ukrainian servicemen prepare a Polish self-propelled howitzer Krab to fire toward Russian positions, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, on a frontline in Donetsk region, Ukraine November 8, 2022. REUTERS

KYIV — President Volodymyr Zelensky on Tuesday night said his forces would not yield “a single centimeter” in battles for control of eastern Donetsk region while Russian-installed officials described Ukrainian forces moving into one southern town with tanks.

The focal points of the conflict in the industrial region of Donetsk are around the towns of Bakhmut, Soledar and Avdiivka, the theatre of the heaviest fighting in the country since Russian forces invaded their neighbor in late February.

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“The activity of the occupiers remains at an extremely high level – dozens of attacks every day,” Zelenskiy said in his nightly video address.

“They are suffering extraordinarily high losses. But the order remains the same – to advance on the administrative boundary of Donetsk region. We will not yield a single centimeter of our land,” he said.

The region is one of four Russia claimed to have annexed in late September. Fighting had been going on there between Ukrainian military and Russian proxy forces since 2014, the same year Moscow annexed Crimea in the south.

Fierce fighting in southern town

A Russian-installed mayor in the town of Snihurivka east of the southern city of Mykolaiv was cited by Russia’s RIA news agency as saying on Tuesday that residents had seen tanks and that fierce fighting was going on.

“They got into (radio) contact during the day and said there were tanks moving around and, according to their information, heavy fighting on the edge of the town,” the mayor Yuri Barabashov said. “People saw this equipment moving through the streets in the town centre,” he told RIA.

Kirill Stremousov, deputy head of the Russian-installed administration in Kherson region, said Ukrainian forces had tried to advance on three fronts, including Snihurivka, according to his Telegram messaging app account.

Vitaly Kim, the Ukrainian governor of Mykolaiv region, strongly suggested that Ukrainian forces had already evicted Russian forces from the area. He quoted what appeared to be a conversation between Russian servicemen.

“The Russian troops are complaining that they have already been thrown out of there,” a statement on Kim’s Telegram channel said.

Reuters was not able to verify the battlefield reports.

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There was no official word on the situation in the town from military officials in either Ukraine or Russia.

Advance on Kherson

Ukrainian forces have been on the offensive in recent months, while Russia is regrouping to defend areas of Ukraine it still occupies, having called up hundreds of thousands of reservists over the past month.

Russia has been evacuating civilians from occupied areas, especially from Kherson in an operation Kyiv says includes forced deportations, a war crime. Moscow says it is taking people to safety.

On Tuesday night, a Ukrainian military statement accused Russian troops of continuing to loot and destroy infrastructure in Kherson, where a showdown has been looming for weeks in the only regional capital Russia has captured intact since its invasion.

“On 7th November, a convoy of trucks passed over the dam of the Kakhova hydroelectric station loaded with home appliances and building materials,” the statement said.

Russian forces were dismantling mobile phone towers and taking away equipment, it said.

In an area near the city of Beryslav, Russian forces “blew up a power line and took equipment from a solar power station.”

In Kherson city, it said Russian troops removed exhibits, furniture and equipment from a museum devoted to artist Oleksiy Shovkunenko, known for his paintings of portraits and landscapes.

Russian artillery hit more than 30 settlements in Kherson and Mykolaiv regions, and in Zaporizhzhia region the Russian-installed authorities were forcing residents to accept Russian passports after seizing their Ukrainian documents, the statement said.

Reuters was not able to verify the Ukrainian reports.