The use of heavy weapons supplied by the West in the fierce battle raging on the outskirts of Bakhmut, which was captured by Russia in May, is inflicting a significant toll on enemy lines, Ukrainian commanders have said
Buoyed after the capture last week of the key village of Klishchiivka, Ukrainian troops have lauded the 155-millimetre howitzers as key equipment being provided by the United States and its Nato allies.
Unit commander Oleksandr said Ukraine’s armed forces “very much rely” on heavy artillery, including the Polish-made Krab gun and the US-made M109 self-propelled howitzer.
“Even one gun can completely turn the situation around. An attack can be stopped with one such gun,” he said.
“The main thing is to aim where needed. They (the Russians) hate our hardware. That's what we gather from our intercepts. We hear that we keep giving them hell and they keep wondering how much ammunition we have left.”
Oleksandr, 30, described Klishchiivka – a village on the heights south of the devastated town of Bakhmut – as “one of the places they (the Russians) were clinging to.”
“We will see what's next. We will develop our success,” he said.
Ukrainian commanders have described the capture of Klischiivka and nearby Andriivka as stepping stones to taking back Bakhmut, which fell to the Russians after months of some of the war's heaviest fighting.
The gains have been among the most significant in Ukraine's counteroffensive, which began in June and has struggled to break through entrenched Russian lines.
Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskiy and senior officials have hailed the advances and rejected criticism in the West that the counteroffensive is progressing too slowly.
Meanwhile, Norwegian police have arrested a former commander of the Wagner mercenary group on suspicion that he tried to illegally cross the border back into Russia after seeking asylum in Norway earlier this year, the man’s lawyer said on Saturday.
Andrei Medvedev, who escaped Russia in January via its Arctic border with Norway, has described running as Russian guards fired shots at him. He has spoken about his time-fighting in Ukraine as part of the Wagner group.
Police said in a statement late on Friday that a man in his 20s had been taken into custody for attempting to illegally cross the Russian border, but did not name him. An officer with the Finnmark local police declined to give the arrested man’s identity.
Crossing the border to Russia is only allowed at designated points.
But Mr Medvedev’s arrest was due to a misunderstanding, his Norwegian lawyer Brynjulf Risnes said.
“He was up there to see if he could find the place where he crossed (into Norway in January). He was stopped when he was in a taxi. He was never near the border ... It was never his intention to cross the border (into Russia),” Mr Risnes said.
At the time of his arrival in Norway, Mr Medvedev said he was seeking asylum because he feared for his life after witnessing the killing and mistreatment of Russian prisoners brought to the frontline in Ukraine.
His escape in January made headlines around the world as a rare example at the time of someone defecting to a western country while claiming to have fought for Russia as a mercenary in the Ukraine war.
But in May, he said in a video posted on YouTube he wanted to return to Russia even though he believed this could pose a risk to his life, describing himself as “some kind of a boy in a big game” that he no longer wanted to be part of.
Mr Risnes said Mr Medvedev had the right to return to Russia if he wanted to, but that “a lot of changes need to happen” in order to make a safe return.
In April, Mr Medvedev was convicted in Norway of involvement in a bar fight and of carrying an air gun but was acquitted of committing violence against police. He said then he was looking to the future and hoped for asylum.
Wagner founder Yevgeny Prigozhin was killed on August 23rd when a private jet he used crashed in unexplained circumstances, just two months after he briefly sent his mercenaries advancing on Moscow in a direct challenge to the Russian establishment. – Reuters
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