Foreign analysts say Russia may temporarily ease its offensive in Ukraine as the Russian military tries to rally its forces for another attack.
Russian forces did not claim or assess any territorial gains in Ukraine on Wednesday “for the first time in 133 days of war,” according to the Institute for the Study of War. The Washington-based think tank hinted that Moscow may be taking an “operational pause,” but that does not mean “a complete cessation of active hostilities.”
“Russian forces are likely to confine themselves to relatively small offensive actions as they try to create conditions for more significant offensive operations and rebuild the combat capability needed to attempt these more ambitious ventures,” the institute said.
A statement by the Russian Defense Ministry on Thursday seemed to confirm this assessment. Russian military units involved in fighting in Ukraine were given time to rest.
“The units that conducted combat missions during the military special operation are taking measures to restore their combat capabilities. The soldiers have the opportunity to rest, receive letters and packages from home,” the statement said, as quoted by the Russian state news agency Tass.
Shelling continued in eastern Ukraine, where at least nine civilians were killed and six injured in a 24-hour period, Ukrainian officials said.
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Ukraine’s Presidential Office said in its Thursday morning update that towns and villages in seven Ukrainian regions were shelled over the past day. Most of the civilian deaths occurred in Donetsk province, where fighting is ongoing. Seven civilians were killed there, including a child, the presidential office said.
Ten towns and villages were shelled in Donetsk and 35 buildings were destroyed, including a school, a vocational school and a hospital, officials said.
Donetsk is part of the Donbass, a predominantly Russian-speaking industrial region where Ukraine’s most experienced soldiers are concentrated. For eight years, pro-Russian separatists have fought Ukrainian forces and controlled much of the Donbass. Russian President Vladimir Putin recognized the independence of two self-proclaimed republics there just before Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.
Putin on Monday claimed victory in Luhansk, the other province that makes up Donbass, after Ukrainian forces withdrew from the last city they controlled there. Luhansk Governor Serhiy Haidai on Wednesday denied that the Russians had completely taken over the province.
A boarding school was hit in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, but no one was injured. The Kharkiv region, which borders Russia, is under daily shelling and two civilians have been killed there in the last 24 hours.
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Ukraine’s military said on Thursday that Russian forces also carried out shelling and helicopter attacks in the Sumy region in the northeast.
Even as fighting continued, Britain’s MoD said it believes Russia’s military is “reassembling” its forces. A ministry intelligence assessment released on Thursday says the heavy shelling along the front line in Donetsk is likely intended to secure past Russian gains.
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More hostilities were reported in the Black Sea, where Ukraine’s military said on Thursday a Ukrainian flag had been raised on a strategically important island from which Russian troops withdrew last month.
Ukraine’s Operational Command South said in a statement that Ukrainian military units cleared Snake Island, an outpost off Ukraine’s south-west coast vital to ensuring sea routes out of the key port of Odessa. The commando group also said the Ukrainian military destroyed about 30 pieces of Russian military equipment and described the discovery of “abandoned munitions and huge ruins.”
Russian troops withdrew from the island on June 30 in what the Russian Defense Ministry called a “goodwill gesture.” But the ministry said Thursday a Russian Aerospace Forces plane launched a missile attack on the island as Ukrainian forces attempted to hoist the flag.
“As a result, part of the Ukrainian military personnel was destroyed, the rest fled,” the ministry said.
Ukraine also said that Russia fired two rockets at a Moldovan-flagged oil tanker in the Black Sea and set it on fire.
Ukraine’s Southern Military Command said the strike hit the Millennial Spirit, which has over 500 tons of diesel fuel on board. Ukraine says one missile hit the ship while the other missed. Social media images showed smoke off the coast of Odessa on Thursday morning.
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The ship has been unmanned since the beginning of the war in February and is adrift at sea. Russia did not immediately recognize the strike on the ship. The ship’s tracking devices have failed since its crew abandoned it.
Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry said it summoned Turkey’s ambassador to Kyiv on Thursday over an alleged theft of Ukrainian grain by a Russian ship.
The Russian ship Zhibek Zholy was allowed to leave Turkey’s Black Sea coast after Turkish authorities briefly detained it at the request of Ukraine. Ukraine summoned the ambassador to complain about the “unacceptable situation”.
Turkey with its Bosphorus Strait is an important transit route for shipping from the Black Sea. Ukraine has tried to pressure Ankara to stop Russian shipments of its grain, a major source of revenue.
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https://globalnews.ca/news/8972817/russia-ukraine-pause-renewed-assault/ Russian army pauses in Ukraine to regroup for renewed attack, analysts predict – National