Russia-occupied Kherson cut off due to Ukraine counter-attacks – Britain

  • Ukraine’s counter-offensive in Kherson is gaining momentum – UK
  • Ukraine says Russia is conducting a “large-scale redeployment” in the south
  • Russian-backed forces take control of the Vohlhersk plant
  • Blinkin says he plans to make a call with Russian Lavrov

(Reuters) – British defense and intelligence officials said on Thursday that a Ukrainian counterattack had effectively cut off the Russian-occupied southern city of Kherson and left thousands of Russian troops stationed near the Dnipro River “extremely weakened”.

Ukraine has made it clear that it intends to take back 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 built a bridge south of the Ingolets River and used new long-range artillery to destroy at least three of the bridges crossing the Dnipro River.

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“The 49th Russian army stationed on the western bank of the Dnipro River now appears highly vulnerable,” she said in a regular intelligence bulletin on Twitter, adding that Kherson is effectively isolated from other Russian-occupied territories.

His loss would severely undermine Russia’s attempts to portray the occupation as a success.

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

Oleksiy Aristovich, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, said Russia is conducting a “widespread redeployment” of forces from east to south in what amounts to a strategic shift from offensive to defense.

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

“We are doing everything we can to ensure that the occupation 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 instead go to bridges and pontoon ferries to ferry troops across the river.

Russia-backed forces said on Wednesday they had captured the Soviet-era Volhersk coal-fired power plant, Ukraine’s second largest, in what marked Moscow’s first major gain in more than three weeks. Read more

Diplomacy

Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24 in what Moscow called a “special military operation” to disarm and “disarm” its neighbor. Ukraine and its allies describe the invasion as an unjustified war of aggression.

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said he plans to have a phone conversation with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov – the first among diplomats since before the war began.

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

Russia has not received any official request from Washington regarding a phone call between Blinkin and Lavrov, the TASS news agency reported.

Blinken said the United States made a “big offer” to Russia to release US citizens, WNBA star Britney Grenier and former US Marine Paul Whelan, without elaborating on what the US would offer in return. Read more

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

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

Besides discussing the Americans being held by Russia, Blinkin said he and Lavrov would bring up the preliminary 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 since the invasion, but agreed on Friday to allow shipments through the Black Sea to the Bosphorus strait in Turkey and to global markets. Read more

The deal became doubtful almost immediately when Russia launched cruise missiles at Odessa, Ukraine’s largest port, on Saturday, just 12 hours after the deal was signed.

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

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Reporting by Reuters offices. Written by Grant McCall and Stephen Coates; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Lincoln Fest.

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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