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Ukraine reclaims village in Donetsk region from Russian troops amid grueling counteroffensive

<i>Libkos/AP</i><br/>Ukrainian soldiers on a tank ride along the road towards their positions near Bakhmut
Ukrainian soldiers on a tank ride along the road towards their positions near Bakhmut

By Lauren Said-Moorhouse, Alex Stambaugh and Kostan Nechyporenko, CNN

(CNN) — Ukrainian forces have retaken the village of Urozhaine in the eastern Donetsk region, Kyiv said on Wednesday, after days of punishing battles as part of its counteroffensive against Russia.

Andrii Kovalov, spokesperson of the Ukrainian military’s general staff, said on national television Wednesday morning that “Ukrainian defense forces took control of Urozhaine” and were consolidating their positions.

Urozhaine is located about 60 miles (100 kilometers) southwest of the Russian-occupied Donetsk city. It lies near the village of Staromaiorske, which Ukrainian soldiers liberated earlier this month.

Ukraine’s deputy defense minister Hanna Maliar echoed Kovalov, proudly declaring on Telegram that “Urozhaine was liberated” and “the offensive continues.”

Footage released by Kyiv’s forces and geolocated by CNN shows soldiers raising the Ukrainian flag within the village near a memorial dedicated to Soviet troops who fought in World War II.

The military said alongside the video that servicemen from the 35th and 38th Separate Marine Brigades as well as other Ukrainian defense forces units had helped recapture Urozhaine.

The Kremlin’s forces inside Urozhaine had been in a precarious situation for some time. Ukrainian sources and well-connected pro-Russian military bloggers had expected Kyiv would wrest control of the village after nearby Staromaiorske fell two weeks ago.

The two villages are separated by just a small river, and by taking Staromaiorske, Kyiv’s troops gained another firing position from which to attack Russian positions within Urozhaine, giving it an advantage.

While the gains are incremental, the fall of Urozhaine shows that Ukraine’s counteroffensive continues to move forwards, if slower than anticipated.

Elsewhere on the eastern front, Ukrainian forces are continuing to conduct counteroffensive operations south of Bakhmut and “heavy fighting continues,” Kovalov said.

Russia “is putting up strong resistance, moving units and troops, and actively using its reserves” in the areas of Marinka, a city now in ruins that has been on the front lines since the beginning of the invasion, and Krasnohorivka, a town near Bakhmut, he continued.

Ukrainian forces continue to hold back the Russian offensive at the Kupiansk, Lyman, and Bakhmut axis, he added.

CNN is unable to independently verify the battlefield reports and there has been no response from Russia yet.

Heavy defensive lines

Ukraine’s counteroffensive has struggled to gain momentum in the months since it launched its drive into areas in the south and east of the country currently held by Russian soldiers.

Kyiv has faced painstakingly slow progress on the battlefield as its forces have encountered Russia’s heavy defensive lines, reinforced by thousands of mines and vast networks of trenches. Ukraine has incurred staggering losses in its attempts to break through that multi-layered defense.

The recapture of Urozhaine would signal some progress in Ukraine’s efforts to push south towards the Sea of Azov. The area is a major target for Kyiv as driving deep into the territory would mean breaking Russia’s land-bridge between annexed Crimea and eastern Donetsk.

Earlier this week, Kyiv rejected recent criticism that its troops were not advancing fast enough, saying it was focused on destroying Russia’s capabilities and disrupting its logistics.

“The task of the Ukrainian Armed Forces is not to organize large-scale battles for every settlement on the way to the 1991 borders, but to systematically destroy the capabilities of the enemy army: its logistics, technical potential, officers and personnel. And today, Ukrainian defenders are coping with this task one hundred percent,” Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said Monday.

“Long-range missiles for Ukraine now mean a sharp reduction in Russia’s combat capabilities. This is the active destruction of Russia’s reserves and resources on the far outskirts,” Podolyak added in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.

“This is the destruction of rear logistics — warehouses, transportation, fuel. It is the acceleration of Ukrainian offensive operations. It is about saving the lives of Ukrainian soldiers, minimizing losses… And most importantly, it is about de-escalation,” he added.

™ & © 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

CNN’s Gianluca Mezzofiore, Kostan Nechyporenko, Vasco Cotovio, Svitlana Vlasova and Lauren Kent contributed to this report.

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