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Ukraine provides an important bridge in Russian-held Kherson

#Ukraine #important #bridge #Russianheld #Kherson

Ukrainian artillery struck a key bridge in Moscow-controlled territory in southern Ukraine on Wednesday, damaging a key supply route as Kiev’s forces try to retake the Kherson region.

The strike on the Antonivsky Bridge over the Dnipro River came hours before the opening of a joint observatory in Istanbul to monitor Ukrainian grain exports, which was blocked by Kremlin warships.

German authorities said Russian energy giant Gazprom has slashed gas supplies to Europe via the Nord Stream pipeline to about 20 percent of capacity after the European Union agreed to a plan to reduce consumption this winter.

Kirill Stremousov, the deputy head of the Russian-installed Kherson regional administration, confirmed that the bridge was hit overnight and traffic was halted.

But he tried to downplay the damage, insisting the attack would “in no way” affect the outcome of hostilities.

“The military special operation continues,” Stremousov said in a video posted to social media, using the Kremlin’s preferred term to refer to their invasion.

Ukrainian forces have in recent weeks recaptured areas in the Kherson region that fell easily and early to Russian forces after their February 24 invasion began.

Their counter-offensive, supported by long-range western artillery, has seen their forces advance closer to the city of Kherson, which had a pre-war population of less than 300,000 people.

– ‘Leave Kherson’ –

Ukrainian officials in the region have said their forces in the Black Sea region have changed course, from defensive to offensive, and that Kherson will be “definitely” liberated by the end of September.

Russian forces “should leave Kherson while it is still possible. There may not be a third warning,” Ukrainian presidential aide Mykhaylo Podolyak said on Twitter after the attack.

Later on Wednesday, the United Nations and Turkey will open a joint center with Russia and Ukraine in Istanbul to coordinate the resumption of grain shipments across the Black Sea.

The two sides agreed last week on a mechanism to release millions of tons of grain trapped by a Russian blockade of Ukrainian ports — an agreement jeopardized by Russian strikes on Ukraine’s Odessa port over the past 24 hours.

Kyiv insists it is still preparing for the departure of the first ships and said Monday it hopes to resume exports “this week”.

The blocking of shipments from two of the world’s largest grain exporters has contributed to price increases that have made food imports unaffordable for some of the world’s poorest countries.

Erdogan wants Turkey – which is on good terms with both Kyiv and Moscow – to be at the center of diplomatic efforts to stop the five-month war.

Russian news agencies – citing Moscow’s embassy in Ankara – said on Wednesday that a previously announced meeting between Erdogan and Russian leader Vladimir Putin would take place next Friday in Russia’s Black Sea resort city of Sochi.

– ‘Thrown in the barn’ –

Intense fighting erupted in the eastern Donbass region as Ukrainian forces pressed Russian positions to the south.

AFP journalists in Bakhmut, one of the remaining towns in Donbass under Ukrainian control, heard sporadic artillery fire and saw a house on the outskirts of town hit by a Russian shell.

“I was in the barn and I wanted to go out. I heard a whistle. And I don’t remember anything. It exploded and I was thrown into the barn by a blast wave,” Roman, 51, told AFP.

The head of Donetsk region in Donbass said on social media that Russian artillery hit a hotel and according to initial reports, the strikes killed and injured people.

Germany’s energy regulator exacerbated a war-triggered energy crisis in Europe, saying gas flows through the vital Nord Stream pipeline fell from 40 percent to 20 percent of capacity on Wednesday.

EU nations have dismissed Gazprom’s claims of technical problems and have accused the Kremlin of cutting supplies in retaliation for Western sanctions over Moscow’s war in Ukraine.

The 27-nation bloc, in response, on Tuesday agreed to a plan to cut gas use by 15 percent this winter in a bid to break its reliance on Russia.

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#Ukraine #important #bridge #Russianheld #Kherson

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