Russia seizes a power station, deploys its forces towards southern Ukraine

  • Ukraine says Russia is conducting “large-scale redeployment” in the south
  • Zelensky aide says Russia appears to be changing tactics
  • Russian-backed forces take control of the Vohlhersk plant

(Reuters) – Russian forces have taken control of Ukraine’s second largest power plant and are conducting a “massive redeployment” of its forces in three southern regions, a Ukrainian presidential adviser said, amid expectations of a counter-attack in Ukraine.

Russia-backed forces said on Wednesday they had captured the Soviet-era Vohlhersk coal-fired power plant, marking Moscow’s first major gain in more than three weeks.

Oleksiy Aristovich, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, confirmed the takeover of the plant in the eastern Donetsk region, but said it was just a “little tactical advantage” for Russia. Read more

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He added that the Russian redeployment in the south seemed to shift to a strategic defense from the offensive, as troops were sent to the Melitopol, Zaporizhzhya and Kherson regions.

Ukraine has made it clear that it intends to restore the southern city of Kherson, which fell to Russia in the early days of the war.

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.

Ukrainian forces in the south said they had killed 66 enemy soldiers and destroyed three tanks and two weapons caches in the past 24 hours. They added that Russian forces attacked the city of Mykolaiv with multiple rocket launchers.

Reuters was unable to verify the battlefield reports.

Ukraine also bombed an important bridge spanning the Dnipro River in Kherson, closing it to traffic. Russian officials had previously said they would instead go to bridges and pontoon ferries to ferry troops across the river.

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.

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 US made a “big offer” to Russia to release US citizens, WNBA star Britney Grenier and former US Marine Paul Whelan, without giving details of what the US would offer in return. Read more

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

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.

Gases and grains

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.

Russia and Russia-backed forces have been struggling to make tangible advances on the ground since their takeover in early July of the eastern Ukrainian city of Lyschansk.

They were repeatedly repelled by the fierce Ukrainian resistance.

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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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