Russian occupation Kherson Ukraine cut off by counterattacks – Britain

  • Ukraine counter-offensive – UK at the speed of gathering Kherson
  • Ukraine says Russia is ‘massive redistribution’ in the south
  • Russian-backed forces capture the Vuhlehirsk plant
  • Blinken says he plans to invite Russia’s Lavrov

July 28 (Reuters) – A Ukrainian counteroffensive has almost cut off the Russian-held southern city of Kherson and left thousands of Russian troops “extremely vulnerable” near the Dnipro river, British defense and intelligence officials said on Thursday.

Ukraine has made clear it wants to recapture Kherson, which fell to Russia in the early days of the invasion launched by Russian President Vladimir Putin on February 24.

Britain’s Ministry of Defense said Ukrainian forces may have installed a bridge south of the Ingulets River and used new, long-range artillery to damage at least three of the bridges crossing the Dnipro.

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“Russia’s 49th Army, stationed on the west bank of the Dnipro River, now looks very vulnerable,” a routine intelligence bulletin said on Twitter, adding that Kherson was virtually cut off from the rest of the Russian-occupied territory.

“Its loss would seriously undermine Russia’s efforts to portray the occupation as a success.”

Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, tweeted that Russia was massing “maximum number of troops” in the direction of Kherson, but gave no details.

Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, said Russia was conducting a “massive redeployment” of forces from east to south.

Zelensky said Ukraine would rebuild the Antonievsky Bridge over the Dnipro and other crossings in the region.

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“We are doing everything to ensure that the occupying forces do not have any logistical opportunities in our country,” he said in a speech on Wednesday evening.

Russian officials had previously said they would return to pontoon bridges and boats instead of getting troops across the river.

Russian-backed forces on Wednesday said they had captured the Soviet-era coal-fired Vuhlehirsk power plant, Ukraine’s second largest, Moscow’s first significant gain in more than three weeks. read more

Diplomacy

Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24 in what Moscow calls a “special military operation” to demilitarize and “decline” its neighbor. Ukraine and its allies call the invasion an unprovoked war of aggression.

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said he had scheduled a phone conversation with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov – the first between the two ambassadors before the war began.

The call in the coming days will not be “negotiations about Ukraine,” Blinken told a news conference, reiterating Washington’s position that talks on ending the war should be between Kyiv and Moscow.

The TASS news agency reported that Russia had received no formal request from Washington regarding the phone call between Blinken and Lavrov.

Blinken said the U.S. offered Russia a “substantial offer” to release U.S. citizens WNBA star Brittney Griner and former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, without giving details of what the U.S. offered in return. read more

Blinken said he would press Lavrov to respond to the offer.

A source familiar with the situation confirmed a CNN report that Washington is willing to exchange Russian arms smuggler Viktor Bot, who is serving a 25-year sentence in the United States, as part of the deal.

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In addition to discussing the Americans detained by Russia, Blinken said he would raise with Lavrov the tentative agreement on grain exports reached last week between Russia, the United States, Turkey and Ukraine.

Russia cut gas flows to Europe on Wednesday in an energy standoff with the European Union. It has blocked grain exports from Ukraine, but on Friday agreed to allow deliveries through the Black Sea to Turkey through the Bosphorus Strait and to global markets. read more

The deal was immediately thrown into doubt when Russia fired cruise missiles at Ukraine’s largest port, Odesa, on Saturday, 12 hours after it was signed.

Before the invasion and subsequent embargo, Russia and Ukraine accounted for nearly a third of world wheat exports.

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Report by Reuters Bureau; By Grant McCool and Stephen Coates; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Lincoln Feast.

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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