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Latest in Ukraine: Battles Inflicting High Casualties on Both Sides


Ukrainian soldiers of the 28th Separate Mechanized Brigade fire a grenade launcher at the front line near the town of Bakhmut, Donetsk region, June 17, 2023.
Ukrainian soldiers of the 28th Separate Mechanized Brigade fire a grenade launcher at the front line near the town of Bakhmut, Donetsk region, June 17, 2023.
  • The British defense ministry said Sunday in its daily intelligence report about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine that both sides are experiencing “high casualties” in the south, “with Russian losses likely the highest since the peak of the battle for Bakhmut in March.”
  • Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Saturday there seems to be "no chance" of extending the United Nations-brokered Black Sea Grain Initiative that allows Ukraine to export grain safely through Russian-controlled waters.
  • The European Union is stepping up efforts to deliver arms and ammunition to Ukraine EU industry chief Thierry Breton said Sunday in an interview with French daily Le Parisien. "We are preparing for the war to last several more months, or even longer," he said.

Russia and Ukraine are reporting heavy fighting and high numbers of military casualties, according to reports from British intelligence Sunday.

Ukrainian fighters are trying to repel Russian forces from occupied areas British officials said Sunday. Russian attrition is probably at its highest levels since the peak of the battle for Bakhmut in March, U.K. military officials said in their regular assessment.

According to British intelligence, the fiercest battles are centered on the southeastern Zaporizhzhia province, around Bakhmut and farther west in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk province. According to the update, Ukraine had “made small advances,” but Russian forces were conducting “relatively effective defensive operations” in Ukraine’s south.

Ukrainian soldiers of the 28th Separate Mechanized Brigade fire a grenade launcher at the front line near the town of Bakhmut, Donetsk region, June 17, 2023.
Ukrainian soldiers of the 28th Separate Mechanized Brigade fire a grenade launcher at the front line near the town of Bakhmut, Donetsk region, June 17, 2023.

The Ukrainian military said in a regular update Sunday morning that during the last 24 hours Russia had carried out 43 airstrikes, four missile strikes and 51 attacks from multiple rocket launchers.

Ukrainian Air Force spokesman Yurii Ihnat said Sunday that Ukrainian forces hit the Russian ammunition depot in the village of Partyzany in southern Kherson Oblast. Partyzany lies close to the administrative border with neighboring Zaporizhzhia Oblast, 45 kilometers (28 miles) west of Russian-occupied Melitopol.

During his nightly video address Sunday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanked Ukrainian soldiers and the air force for defending the country. “Our troops are advancing, position by position, step by step, we are moving forward,” he said. Zelenskyy said the Tavria, or southern front, was "the most brutal" and expressed gratitude to soldiers fighting there and elsewhere. Ukrainian military officials have noted progress in advances of troops on the southern front.

Zelenskyy praised Ukrainian forces for their "very effective" repelling of enemy assaults near Avdiivka, one of the centers of fighting in the east. Over the past two weeks, Ukrainian fighters have advanced about one kilometer around the town, the head of the military administration in Avdiivka said on national TV.

Peace initiative

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg warned that any peace talks between Ukraine and Russia must be “just,” to be sustainable. “Peace cannot mean freezing the conflict and accepting a deal dictated by Russia,” Stoltenberg told German newspaper Welt am Sontag Sunday. The NATO chief made these comments after South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said in Kyiv, “Peace has to be achieved through diplomacy as soon as possible.”

Stoltenberg also said, “Only Ukraine alone can define the acceptable conditions” for peace. “We need to make sure that when this war ends, there are credible agreements for Ukraine's security so that Russia cannot rearm and attack again and the cycle of Russian aggression is broken,” Stoltenberg said.

Leaders from seven African countries visited Ukraine and Russia last week to propose a peace initiative. However, they left empty-handed. Both Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Russian President Vladimir Putin rejected the peace plan.

Putin refused a plan based on the acceptance of Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders while Zelenskyy said any peace talks would presuppose the withdrawal of Moscow’s forces from occupied Ukrainian territory.

After their visit in Kyiv Friday, the African delegation met with Putin and told him that the war is harming the entire world. The African delegation included representatives from the Comoros, the Republic of Congo, Egypt, Senegal, South Africa, Uganda and Zambia.

Russia has recently indicated it would not renew the Black See Grain Initiative brokered by the United Nations and Turkey last July. He said the West had gone back on its promises to ease Russia’s ability to export its agricultural products.

Kakhovka dam

The death toll from flooding after the collapse of the Kakhovka dam has risen to 16 in Ukrainian-held territory, Ukraine's interior ministry said late Saturday, while Russian officials said 29 people died in flooded territories controlled by Moscow.

Thousands of people lost their homes and vital farmland was flooded as a result of the dam’s collapse.

“The most likely cause of the collapse” of Ukraine’s Kakhovka dam, according to a New York Times report, was the placement of an explosive in the structure’s passageway or gallery, that the publication said, “runs through the concrete heart of the structure.”

The Times’ assessment was based on the expertise of “two American engineers, an expert in explosives and a Ukrainian engineer with extensive experience with the dam’s operations.”

In his nightly video address Saturday, Zelenskyy thanked everyone who helped Ukraine overcome “the consequences of the Russian terrorist attack on the Kakhovka HPP.” And he thanked Ukraine’s Western allies for the military and humanitarian support they are providing in its fight against Russia.

Zelenskyy also thanked Luxemburg for officially recognizing the Holodomor famine of the 1930s as a genocide against the Ukrainian people. Luxemburg is the 26th country to officially do so.

Additionally, the Ukrainian president thanked Poland for supporting Ukraine’s efforts to join NATO.

Ukraine – NATO membership

U.S. President Joe Biden said Saturday his administration would not “make it easy” for Ukraine to join NATO. Last week he had indicated he was open to waiving the requirement that Ukraine make the same military and democratic reforms all candidates must meet before being considered for NATO membership.

But when asked Saturday whether Ukraine’s path to joining the transatlantic alliance would be eased, Biden said no. “Because they’ve got to meet the same standards. So, we’re not going to make it easy,” he said.

Putin warned Friday that there is a "serious danger" the NATO military alliance could be pulled further into Russia’s war on Ukraine. He made the comment at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, where he promoted Russia’s economy despite heavy international sanctions imposed because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

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

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