Ukraine retakes eastern villages as cargo ships defy Russia’s Black Sea blockade

Explosion strikes headquarters of the Moscow-installed administration in occupied Donetsk

Ukraine claimed to have retaken more territory near the ruined eastern city of Bakhmut and announced that more cargo ships were defying a Russian naval blockade in the Black Sea, as an explosion struck the headquarters of the Moscow-installed administration in occupied Donetsk.

Footage showed smoke pouring from the roof of the building in central Donetsk, but occupation officials said no one was hurt in the alleged rocket strike, hours after Ukraine said it had shot down all 17 cruise missiles and 18 of 24 attack drones fired by Russia overnight. Four people were killed and several wounded in Russian shelling and air strikes in eastern and southern Ukraine.

Kyiv’s military said its forces had liberated the village of Klishchiivka, days after retaking neighbouring Andriivka, both of which are destroyed and deserted settlements about 10km south of Bakhmut, a road and rail hub in Donetsk region that Russian forces led by the Wagner mercenary group seized in May after months of shelling and street battles.

“Fierce fighting continues in the Bakhmut area. After losing the settlements of Andriivka and Klishchiivka ... the enemy is conducting numerous counterattacks from different directions, trying unsuccessfully to regain lost positions. After all, these settlements which at first glance are small, were important elements of the enemy’s defensive line,” said Oleksandr Syrskyi, commander of Ukrainian ground forces.


“As a result of the successful actions of our troops, there was a breach in the enemy’s defensive line which it tried to close by throwing all available reserves into battle,” he added, claiming that three of Russia’s “most prepared and best units” had been routed in the fighting.

Moscow has not acknowledged losing any territory in the Donetsk region and insists that Ukraine’s counteroffensive – which was launched in June with forces partly trained and equipped by Kyiv’s western allies – has been a costly failure.

Outgoing Ukrainian deputy defence minister Hanna Maliar said Kyiv’s forces had liberated 51sq km near Bakhmut during the counteroffensive, and more than 260sq km in the southeast, including more than 5sq km over the past week.

Ms Maliar is one of several senior defence ministry officials who are to be replaced by incoming defence minister Rustem Umerov: “Rebooting. We started. We continue. Ministry continues to work as usual,” Mr Umerov wrote on social media.

Russia targeted Ukraine’s southern Odesa region with drones and missiles in the early hours of Monday, as it has repeatedly since pulling out of a deal in July that was brokered by the United Nations and Turkey to safeguard grain shipments via the Black Sea.

In a bid to break Russia’s reimposed naval blockade, Ukraine is now urging ships to sail to and from its ports through a “temporary corridor” that hugs the Black Sea coastlines of Nato members Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey.

Ukrainian officials said the cargo ship Puma, registered in the Cayman Islands, had left Odesa with metal and rapeseed on board. Meanwhile, two Palau-flagged ships sailed to Ukraine to load nearly 20,000 tonnes of grain for delivery to Africa and Asia.

China’s top diplomat Wang Yi was expected in Moscow on Monday after he met US national security adviser Jake Sullivan in Malta, and following North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un’s return home following talks in Russia that the West believes covered arms and technology deals.

Daniel McLaughlin

Daniel McLaughlin

Daniel McLaughlin is a contributor to The Irish Times from central and eastern Europe