Shoigu says Russia is pushing Ukrainian forces westwards

shoigu says russia is pushing ukrainian forces westwards

Russia’s Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu visits a military factory producing air-launched weapons and aerial bombs in the Nizhny Novgorod region, Russia, in this still image taken from video released March 21, 2024. Russian Defence Ministry/Handout via REUTERS/ File photo

MOSCOW (Reuters) -Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Tuesday that the army was pushing Ukrainian forces westwards.

But comments by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and Ukrainian military sources disputed some of Shoigu’s assertions that Moscow’s troops had seized control of a number of localities along the eastern Ukrainian front.

The reports from Ukraine suggested its forces had inflicted heavy losses in a attack by Russian tanks and armoured vehicles.

Shoigu, quoted by Russian media at a meeting of commanders, said that Ukraine’s 2023 counteroffensive had proved to be a failure and Kyiv’s forces had since tried to gain a foothold on various fronts but had not achieved their goals.

Shoigu said Russian forces had captured 403 sq km (156 sq miles) of territory since the New Year and secured control over five towns and villages in eastern Ukraine in March.

Russia claimed its first significant victory in nine months with the capture of Avdiivka in February. Shoigu said groups of Russian troops “continue to push back the Ukrainian formations” towards the west.

Zelenskiy, in his nightly video address, mentioned localities being defended by Kyiv’s troops — including one cited by Shoigu, Tonenke, suggesting it was not certain Russia controlled the village.

The Ukrainian General Staff’s evening report made a similar reference to Nevelske, another locality Shoigu said was under Russian control. Tonenke is west of Avdiivka, while Nevelske is further south.

An account by a member of Ukraine’s 25th brigade, reported by the Espreso TV media outlet, said Ukrainian forces had repelled an attack last Friday by Russian tanks and armoured vehicles near Tonenke. The account said Ukrainian forces had destroyed three armoured vehicles and three tanks.

Reuters could not independently verify battlefield accounts from either side.

With the war going into its 26th month, Russian forces have focused on gaining ground in eastern Ukraine after failing to complete an initial advance on Kyiv. They hold about 16 percent of Ukraine’s territory and have annexed four regions, though they do not have full control of any of them.

(Reporting by Reuters; Editing by Sandra Maler)

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