Ukraine says it is pushing back Russian forces trying to advance west

A regional governor said Ukrainian forces opposed Russian efforts to advance in the eastern region of Donetsk, as Ukrainian officials urged Western allies to send in more weapons.

In a message to Telegram on July 9, Serhiy Hayday, head of the Lugansk regional administration, reported heavy Russian shelling of towns amid attacks from multiple directions.

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“The Russians are firing on the whole front line”, Hayday wrote. “The enemy is trying to advance from the settlements of the Lugansk region to the first villages of the Donetsk region.”

In Ukraine’s second city of Kharkiv, emergency services said six civilians were injured when a rocket hit a two-story residential building on July 9.

The Russian Defense Ministry said its forces struck two “foreign mercenary bases deployed near Kharkiv”.

Kharkiv Governor Oleh Synehubov said on Telegram that Ukrainian fighters repelled two Russian attacks near Dementiivka, a town between Kharkiv and the Russian border.

Western intelligence agencies said this week that Russian forces may be taking an operational pause in their offensive in Ukraine’s Donbass region after claiming to have taken the entire Lugansk region.

Hayday and other Ukrainian officials denied that Luhansk was fully under Russian control, even as Ukrainian forces withdrew from the last major cities of Syevyerodonetsk and Lysychansk.

“The Russians are making very, very incremental, limited, hard-fought, and very costly progress in some select small spaces in Donbass,” a senior US defense official told reporters on July 8. “They are way behind on their target. They are way behind their targets. The Ukrainians are in localized places and launching effective offensives.

Mykhaylo Podolyak, a senior Ukrainian presidential adviser and negotiator, also said Russia was forced to suspend operations to replenish troops and equipment.

“It’s clear that they have to redeploy things, bring in new troops and new weapons, and that’s fine,” Podolyak told Ukraine’s 24 Channel TV on July 8. “A certain turning point is starting to take shape because we are proving that we are going to attack storage facilities and command centers.”

Britain’s Ministry of Defence, meanwhile, said on July 9 that Russia appeared to be using older, obsolete vehicles to bring troops to the front lines and suggested Russia might run out of weapons.

Ukrainian officials have repeatedly requested more modern Western weapons to help bolster defenses and launch counterattacks.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on July 9 that Western sanctions against Moscow were working and he again called for more deliveries of high-precision weapons.

“The Russians are desperately trying to lift these sanctions, which proves that they are hurting them. Therefore, the sanctions must be increased until [Russian President Vladimir] Putin is abandoning his aggressive plans,” Kuleba told a forum in Dubrovnik via video link.

On July 8, the White House announced a new weapon pack worth up to $400 million, including four more high-mobility artillery rocket systems and more ammunition.

The rocket systems, known as HIMARS, allow Ukrainian forces to target Russian positions at greater ranges and with greater precision than ordinary artillery. With the new cargo, Ukraine will have 12 HIMARS in service.

Russian forces have also seized territories in southern Ukraine, including Kherson and Zaporizhzhya. Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk has urged residents to evacuate before Ukrainian forces launch a counteroffensive.

Ukrainian officials have also warned civilians to flee in case they are trapped in territory taken over by Russian forces. According to Ukrainian and Western officials, up to 1.6 million people have been forcibly resettled from Russian-occupied territories to Russia itself.

Activists and journalists have so-called filtration camps documentedwhere Ukrainians are interrogated and detained – sometimes for days – while their backgrounds are reviewed.

“We believe that Russia, with the help of proxy groups, is almost certainly using so-called screening operations to detain and deport Ukrainian civilians to Russia,” said Courtney Austrian, Deputy Ambassador of States United with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Russia. Europe, said in the remarks July 7.

“Russian officials reportedly began preparations for the filtration process before February 24,” she said. “At least 18 filtration sites along both sides of the Ukraine-Russia border have been identified so far.”

Senior diplomats from the Group of 20 major industrialized countries gathered in Bali, Indonesia on July 8 for talks dominated by the war in Ukraine, as well as soaring world food and energy prices .

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov walked out of the meetings amid criticism from Germany and other Western officials. He denounced the criticism as “frantic”.

Rising food prices are largely due to Ukraine’s inability to export its grain from Black Sea ports due to Russian naval presence and mined ports.

Speaking on July 9 in Indonesia, alongside his Chinese counterpart, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters he believed Russia came out of the G20 meetings isolated and alone.

“It was very important that he heard loud and clear from around the world the condemnation of Russia’s aggression,” Blinken said, as quoted by Reuters. “We see no signs that Russia is ready to engage in diplomacy.”

Putin, meanwhile, said Western sanctions on Russia risked causing “catastrophic” increases in energy prices.

With reports from the Ukrainian service of RFE / RL and Reuters

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