Ukrainians make gains in the east, stop Russian gas at a hub

ZAPORIZHZHIA, Ukraine (AP) — The Ukrainian gas pipeline operator on Wednesday halted Russian shipments through a key hub in the east of the country, while its chairman, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said kyiv’s military had made small gains, pushing Russian forces out of four villages near Kharkiv.

The pipeline operator said Russian shipments through its Novopskov hub, in an area controlled by Moscow-backed separatists, would be halted from Wednesday. He said the hub handles about a third of Russian gas transiting through Ukraine to Western Europe. Russian natural gas giant Gazprom put the figure at around a quarter.

The move marks the first time natural gas supplies have been affected by the war that began in February. This could force Russia to shift its gas flows through Ukrainian-controlled territory to reach customers in Europe. Russian energy giant Gazprom initially said it could not, although preliminary flow data suggested higher rates passing through a second station in Ukrainian-controlled territory.

The operator said it was stopping the flow due to interference from “occupying forces”, including the apparent siphoning of gas. Russia could redirect shipments through Sudzha, a main hub in a northern part of the country controlled by Ukraine, he said. But Gazprom spokesman Sergei Kupriyanov said it would be “technologically impossible” and questioned the reason given for the shutdown.

Zelenskyy said on Tuesday the military was gradually moving Russian troops away from Kharkiv, while Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba expressed what appeared to be building confidence – and broadening the targets, suggesting Ukraine could move beyond the simple act of forcing Russia back into the areas it held before the invasion began 11 weeks ago.

Kuleba told the Financial Times that Ukraine initially thought victory would be the withdrawal of Russian troops to the positions they held before the February 24 invasion. But attention shifted to the eastern industrial heartland of Donbass after Russian forces failed to take kyiv early in the war.

“Now, if we are strong enough on the military front and win the Battle of Donbass, which will be crucial for the next dynamics of the war, of course, the victory for us in this war will be the liberation of the rest of our territories said Kuleba.

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Kuleba’s statement seemed to reflect political ambitions more than battlefield realities: Russian forces have advanced into the Donbass and control more of it than they did before the war began. But it shows how Ukraine thwarted a larger and better armed Russian army, surprising many who had anticipated a much quicker end to the conflict.

Ukraine said on Tuesday that Russian forces fired seven missiles at Odessa the day before, hitting a shopping center and a warehouse in the country’s biggest port. One person was killed and five others injured, the army said.

Footage showed a burning building and debris – including a tennis shoe – in a heap of destruction in the Black Sea city.

A general suggested that Moscow’s goals include reducing Ukraine’s maritime access to the Black Sea and the Sea of ​​Azov. It would also give Russia a corridor connecting it to both the Crimean peninsula, which it seized in 2014, and Transnistria, a pro-Moscow region of Moldova..

Ukraine’s targeting of Russian forces on Snake Island in the Black Sea was helping to disrupt Moscow’s attempts to expand its influence, the British military said.

Russia has sought to reinforce its garrison on Snake Island, while “Ukraine has successfully struck Russian air defenses and resupplied ships with Bayraktar drones,” the UK MoD said in an update. information on Twitter. He said Russian supply ships had minimal protection after the Russian Navy withdrew to Crimea after losing the Moskva.

This matches satellite photos analyzed by The Associated Press showing the fighting there.

But the British military warned: “If Russia consolidates its position on (Snake) Island with strategic air defense and coastal defense cruise missiles, it could dominate the northwest Black Sea.

Even if Russia fails to separate Ukraine from its shores – and it appears to lack the forces to do so – the continued missile strikes on Odessa reflect its strategic importance. The Russian military has repeatedly targeted its airport, claiming it destroyed several batches of Western weapons.

Odessa is a major gateway for grain shipmentsand the Russian blockade threatens global food supplies. It is also a cultural gem, dear to Ukrainians and Russians alike. Targeting him has a symbolic meaning.

To protect Odessa, kyiv may need to move its forces southwest away from the eastern Donbass front, where they are fighting near Kharkiv to push the Russians back across the border.

Kharkiv and its surroundings have come under sustained Russian attack since the start of the war. In recent weeks, gruesome images have borne witness to the horrors of these battles, with charred and mutilated bodies strewn in a street.

The bodies of 44 civilians were found in the rubble of a five-storey building that collapsed in March in Izyum, about 120 kilometers (75 miles) from Kharkiv, administration chief Oleh Synehubov said on Tuesday. regional.

Russian planes launched unguided missiles twice on Tuesday in the Sumy region, northeast of Kharkiv, according to the Ukrainian Border Guard Service. The region’s governor said the missiles hit several residential buildings, but no one was killed. Russian mortars hit the Chernihiv region, along Ukraine’s border with Belarus, but no casualties.

Zelenskyy used his late-night address to pay tribute to Leonid Kravchuk, the first president of an independent Ukrainedied Tuesday at age 88.

Kravchuk showed courage and was able to get the country to listen to him, he said.

This was especially important in “times of crisis, when the future of the whole country may depend on the courage of one man,” said Zelenskyy, whose own communication skills and decision to stay in Kyiv when he was attacked by Russia helped to make him a strong warlord.

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Gambrell reported from Lviv, Ukraine. Yesica Fisch in Bakhmut, David Keyton in kyiv, Yuras Karmanau in Lviv, Mstyslav Chernov in Kharkiv, Lolita C. Baldor in Washington, Kelvin Chan in London and AP global staff contributed.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine: https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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