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Ukraine hits bridge linking Crimea to mainland in blow to Russian supply route
Ukraine hits bridge linking Crimea to mainland in blow to Russian supply route
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Ukraine hits bridge linking Crimea to mainland in blow to Russian supply route
by DZRH News24 June 2023
A view shows the damaged Chonhar bridge connecting Russian-held parts of Ukraine's Kherson region to the Crimean peninsula, following what Russian-appointed officials say was a Ukrainian missile attack, in this picture released June 22, 2023. Russian-installed leader of the Kherson region Vladimir Saldo via Telegram/Handout via REUTERS

By Tom Balmforth

KYIV (Reuters) -Ukrainian missiles on Thursday struck one of the few bridges linking the Crimea Peninsula with the Ukrainian mainland, Russian-appointed officials said, cutting one of the main supply routes for Russian occupation forces in southern Ukraine.

Meanwhile on the eastern front, Ukrainian forces were containing Russian troops and have not allowed "a single metre" of Russian advances, Ukraine's Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Maliar said on the Telegram app on Thursday.

She added Ukrainian forces on the southern front, where several villages were retaken last week, were "gradually moving forward. We have had partial success. We are pushing back the enemy and levelling the front line".

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Ukraine is attacking Russian supply lines to disrupt Moscow's defence of occupied territory in the south, where Kyiv is in the early stages of its most ambitious counteroffensive of the 16-month-old war.

Kyiv says it has recaptured eight villages so far, but it has yet to commit the bulk of its forces to the fight and its troops have yet to reach the main Russian defensive lines.

Vladimir Saldo, head of the Russian-installed administration in occupied Kherson province, released video of himself on the Chonhar road bridge, where craters were blasted through the asphalt.

"Another meaningless act perpetrated by the Kyiv regime on orders from London. It solves nothing as far as the special military operation is concerned," he said, vowing to repair the bridge and restore traffic. Ukraine did not claim responsibility for the bridge attack.

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The bridge is one of a handful of access roads to Crimea, which a narrow isthmus links to the Ukrainian mainland.

Alternative routes require hours-long detours over roads in poor condition. Russia's RIA new agency quoted Russian-installed transport officials as saying repairing the bridge could take weeks.

The bridge is beyond range of the battlefield rockets Ukraine has used for a year, but within reach of newly deployed weapons such as British and French air-launched cruise missiles, allowing Kyiv to hit logistics routes Russia had deemed safe just weeks ago.

'PSYCHOLOGICAL IMPACT'

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The strike was "a blow to the military logistics of the occupiers", said Yuriy Sobolevsky, a Ukrainian official on the governing body for the Kherson region.

"There is no place on the territory of Kherson region where they can feel safe," he said.

Russian investigators said four missiles were fired by Ukrainian forces at the bridge, the RIA news agency reported. It quoted a spokesman for military investigators as saying markings on one missile suggested it was made in France.

Ukraine's Maliar said fighting in the Lyman sector, in the north of Donetsk region, was "the most difficult".

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In the south, Ukrainian forces continued their offensive aimed at moving towards the city of Melitopol in the Zaporizhzhia region and the port of Berdiansk on the Sea of Azov, she said.

Russia says it has fended off the Ukrainian counterattack and inflicted heavy casualties, which Ukraine denies.

Russian mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin accused the leaders of the Russian military of lying to President Vladimir Putin and the Russian people about the extent of Russian losses and setbacks in Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has acknowledged that progress has been slow so far, but says his troops are advancing cautiously into heavily mined and well-defended areas to minimise losses.

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Zelenskiy on Thursday accused Russia of planning a terrorist attack on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Europe's largest, which is in Russian-held territory near the front line. Moscow denied any such plan.

In a video statement on Telegram, the Ukrainian president said Moscow had prepared an attack that would release radiation from the plant but did not provide evidence.

Zelenskiy also claimed in his nightly video address that Russia had formed teams to collect and hide bodies of people killed in the Kakhovka dam collapse this month in southern Ukraine. Ukraine and Russia have accused each other of being behind the dam breach.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called out Russia on Thursday for killing 136 children in Ukraine in 2022, adding its armed forces to a global list of offenders, according to a report to the U.N. Security Council seen by Reuters on children and armed conflict.

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Russia has denied targeting civilians since it invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022.

In London, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said he was certain Ukraine will have received the $6.5 billion it needs this year for its rapid reconstruction from pledges made at a conference that closed on Thursday.

(Reporting by Reuters bureaux; Writing by Peter Graff, Alexandra Hudson and Cynthia Osterman; Editing by Gareth Jones, Alex Richardson and David Gregorio)

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