Russia reports advances in northeast, Ukraine disagrees

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KYIV (Reuters) -Russia and Ukraine presented vastly different accounts of fighting in northeastern Ukraine on Tuesday, with Moscow reporting advances by its troops and Kyiv saying it had seized the initiative in the region.

Both sides reported no letup in the fighting.

Ukraine has reported a measure of progress in a counteroffensive launched early last month in the east and in capturing villages in the south, while Moscow says it has contained any move forward by Kyiv's forces.

The top U.S. general, General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he believed Ukraine's counter-offensive was far from a failure, but the fight ahead would be long and bloody.

A Russian Defence Ministry spokesman said its forces had advanced by up to 2 km (1.2 miles) in the direction of Kupiansk, an important railway junction in the northeastern Kharkiv region.

But Ukrainian Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Maliar said the initiative in the area had switched to Ukrainian forces.

"The enemy's offensive in the Kupiansk sector is having no success at this time," Maliar wrote on the Telegram messaging app. "Fighting is continuing, but we have taken the initiative."

Maliar said Ukrainian forces made new gains near Bakhmut, captured by Russian forces in May after months of battles.


She said Ukrainian forces were "making slow but sure progress" in the south as they try to approach occupied ports on the Sea of Azov to sever a land bridge Russian forces have set up between the east and the Crimean peninsula, annexed in 2014.

"The enemy's key task is to stop us here. They are doing this with all their might," Maliar told national television. "Our forces must first overcome these obstacles and prepare the ground so we can advance more effectively."

Valery Shershen, a spokesperson for Ukrainian troops on the southern front, reported particularly heavy fighting around the village of Staromayorske, southwest of Donetsk.

"We have made advances through the streets," Shershen told the Espreso TV online outlet. "The Ukrainian armed forces control part of this settlement ... we do not control it entirely."

Russian Defence Ministry accounts said Moscow's forces had hit groups of Ukrainian soldiers around Staromayorske.

General Oleksandr Syrskyi, commander of Ukrainian ground forces, had said earlier that Russia had concentrated forces in the Kupiansk sector but Ukrainian troops were holding them back.

"The situation is complicated but under control (in the east)," Syrskyi said on the Telegram messaging app.

Ukrainian officials have increasingly pointed to an intensification of Russian military activity near Kupiansk and nearby Lyman in the northeast. Both cities were retaken by Ukraine late last year and Lyman is also a railway junction.

Ukraine's military say Russia has more than 100,000 troops and more than 900 tanks in the area.

Reuters was unable to verify the situation on the battlefield.

Since Kyiv launched its counteroffensive, aided by weapons supplied by its Western allies, it has retaken more than 210 sq km (81 square miles) of land, Maliar said on Monday.

But Russia still holds vast swathes of territory following its full-scale invasion in February 2022, and Ukrainian troops have encountered heavily defended positions and minefields.

(Reporting by Anna Pruchnicka; Editing by Timothy Heritage, Bernadette Baum, Ron Popeski and Jonathan Oatis)