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Russia Says It Thwarted Ukrainian Attack in Donetsk

Russian rockets are launched against Ukraine from Russia's Belgorod region, seen from Kharkiv, Ukraine, June 4, 2023.

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Russia said Monday its forces had repelled a large-scale Ukrainian attack in the Donetsk region of southern Ukraine.

Russia's defense ministry said the Ukrainian side's goal was to try to break through what they considered the weakest area along the front lines, but that it "had no success."

The Ukrainian attack, Russia said, included six mechanized battalions and two tank battalions.

Donetsk is one the Russia-occupied areas that President Vladimir Putin claimed to annex last year in a move that was rejected by the international community.

It was unclear if the reported Ukrainian attack was part of a long-planned counter-offensive by Ukraine to try to reclaim areas Russian forces seized after launching a full-scale invasion early last year.

Ukraine's military said during a daily report that there were 29 combat clashes in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

Ukrainian children

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy used his nightly address Sunday to remember the children who have died "as the result of Russian aggression" since 2014, including a 2-year-old girl in the Dnipro region late Saturday.

"Today in our country is the day of remembrance for children who died as a result of Russian aggression. Since 2014. Children who would have been alive if a bunch of thugs in the Kremlin, in Moscow, hadn't considered themselves chieftains who allegedly had the right to decide the fate of nations," Zelenskyy said.

Zelenskyy said that 485 children have lost their lives from Russian attacks.

"This is a number that we can officially confirm, knowing the data of each child. The real number is much higher," he said.

He also noted the 19,505 Ukrainian children who have been deported to Russia and are still "in the hands of the enemy."

The United Nations says that around 1,000 other Ukrainian children have been wounded.

Russian soldiers captured

Also Sunday, a pro-Ukraine group of Russian partisans alleged it had captured several Russian soldiers during a cross-border raid into southern Russia and would hand them over to Ukrainian authorities, Reuters reported.

The Freedom of Russia Legion and the Russian Volunteer Corps, a pro-Ukraine group of Russian partisans, have claimed responsibility for a flurry of cross-border attacks into Russia's Belgorod region.

In a video released on the Freedom of Russia's channel on the messaging app Telegram, a man identifying himself as the commander of the Russian Volunteer Corps showed what appeared to be around a dozen Russian soldiers being held captive, two of them lying on hospital beds.

The commander demanded a meeting with the governor of Belgorod, Vyacheslav Gladkov, in exchange for the captives.

"Today until 17:00 you have the opportunity to communicate without weapons and take home two Russian citizens, ordinary soldiers whom you and your political leadership sent to the slaughter," read a joint statement posted along with the video.

Three hours later, Gladkov agreed to meet with the group provided the soldiers were still alive.

But in a later video, the Corps member said Gladkov had not turned up at the designated meeting place.

"We have already decided the fate of these guys," he said. "They will be transferred to the Ukrainian side for the exchange procedure."

Ukraine has denied direct involvement in the cross-border attacks.

Some information for this story came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters