Ukraine’s military says it has recaptured oil and gas platforms in the Black Sea from Russia, describing the breakthrough as a crucial step in regaining Crimea. Ukrainian fighters have also made significant progress toward taking back Bakhmut, a besieged city lost to Russia last May.
Since it captured the offshore rigs in 2015, Russia has used them as launchpads for military helicopters, bases for troops, and high ground for long-range missiles. Historically, Russia has aimed its missiles at freighters transporting grain and other vital cargo to Ukraine.
“Russia has been deprived of the ability to fully control the waters of the Black Sea, and this makes Ukraine many steps closer to regaining Crimea,” Ukraine’s military intelligence service said.
Russia’s Defense Ministry had no immediate comment on the reports.
In reclaiming the platforms, Kyiv has also acquired much-needed energy for its war effort.
The deputy defense minister said Ukrainian fighters have recovered a town in Donetsk province and marched on two other towns south of Bakhmut.
Meanwhile, Germany has promised to continue providing Ukraine with military, economic and humanitarian aid, announcing that its $23.6 billion in support so far make it Kyiv’s second-biggest supporter in total dollars behind the U.S.
These developments come as Ukraine expects to fly F-16s loaned by the U.S. in as soon as three months, after their pilots receive expedited instruction at Morris Air National Guard Base in Tucson, Arizona.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that Western deliveries of F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine will only prolong the conflict.
Speaking at an economic forum in Vladivostok, Putin said 1,000 to 1,500 Russians are volunteering for the Russian military each day and that 270,000 had signed up during the past six months. He continued by adding that he expects U.S. foreign policy on Russia to stay the same whether Biden remains in office or not.
Putin also said Ukraine’s counteroffensive, launched in June to try to reclaim territory from invading Russian forces, had failed.
The United States announced its latest military aid package for Ukraine last week as Secretary of State Antony Blinken led a delegation to Kyiv to consult with Ukrainian leaders. Blinken described the progress of the counteroffensive as “very encouraging.”
The United States continues to assess the progress Ukrainian forces are making on the ground, and Russia’s overall strategic goals have failed in Ukraine, said State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller during a Monday news briefing.
“Their goals were to take Kyiv, to take the majority, if not all of the country, to overthrow the democratically elected government of Ukraine. In all of those things they have failed,” he said.
Miller noted that the Ukrainians have taken back around 50% of the territory that Russia occupied at the height of its full-scale invasion.
The State Department spokesman said that one indication of Russia’s difficulties in sustaining its military effort is [Russian President Vladimir] Putin “traveling across his own country, hat in hand, to beg [North Korean leader] Kim Jong Un for military assistance.”
The Biden administration is reportedly considering supplying Ukraine with longer-range missiles that are packed with cluster bombs capable of significant damage deeper within Russian-occupied territory, according to four U.S. officials.
After seeing the success of cluster munitions delivered in 155 mm artillery rounds in recent months, the U.S. is considering shipping Army Tactical Missile Systems (ATACMS) that can fly up to 306 kilometers and Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS) missiles that have a 72-kilometer range and are packed with cluster bombs, according to Reuters news agency. The GMLRS rocket system would be able to disperse up to 404 cluster munitions. Ukraine has had a version of the GMLRS system in its arsenal for months.
The Biden administration has for months been mulling over the supply of ATACMS, fearing their shipment to Ukraine would be perceived as an overly aggressive move against Russia.
Source : VOA