Ukraine fired Russian missiles overnight on Tuesday, demanding territorial gains from the Russians near the devastated city of Pakmud, the epicenter of months of fighting, ahead of a visit by the Chinese ambassador to Kiev.
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Russia has been troubled for days by a Ukrainian counteroffensive in Bagmouth, a place it now controls more than 90% of, despite rising tensions between the military and the paramilitary group Wagner.
“In recent days, our troops have liberated about 20 square kilometers to the north and south from the outskirts of Bagmouth,” Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Khanna Maliar said.
According to him, Russian troops continued to advance into the city, however, they besieged the last pockets of Ukrainian resistance in the west and “completely destroyed the city with the help of artillery”.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, however, stressed that it was not the much-anticipated large-scale counter-offensive that Kiev has been preparing for months and that its military “needs more time”.
Overnight, Ukraine said it shot down six Russian Kinzhal hypersonic missiles, which Russia said were unstoppable, and 12 other devices, including Kalibr anti-ship missiles, S-400 anti-aircraft missiles and Iskander ballistic missiles, but also Iran. – Developed drones.
While Ukrainian forces congratulated themselves for destroying all Russian missiles in the air, Moscow claimed they had “hit all targets”, including “deployment points of the Ukrainian Armed Forces” and Western ammunition and weapons depots.
At night, AFP journalists saw Ukrainian air defenses in action at Q, lighting up the night sky to destroy Russian missiles aimed at the capital.
The Kinzhal (“Dagger” in Russian) missile is one of the weapons declared “invincible” by Russian President Vladimir Putin, with Moscow saying its hypersonic speed allows it to challenge most air defense systems.
However, Ukraine first announced in early May that it had shot down a Russian Kinzhal missile, thanks to the powerful American Patriot anti-aircraft system, delivered to Kiev in April.
The Russian military, for its part, claimed it had achieved its objectives, but destroyed a US Patriot installation in Kiev and intercepted seven British long-range Storm Shadow missiles, the delivery of which was announced by London last week.
Three people were wounded in the attack, according to the capital’s mayor Vitaly Klitschko, hours before Chinese ambassador Li Hui was expected to arrive in Kiev on a two-day visit.
The Special Representative for Eurasian Affairs, former Chinese Ambassador to Moscow Li Hui, is to discuss a “political solution” to the Ukrainian conflict. He will also visit Poland, France, Germany and Russia.
According to a Ukrainian government source interviewed by AFP, the Chinese ambassador is due to meet Foreign Minister Dmytro Kouleba and other senior officials in Kyiv.
China, Russia’s closest ally, has never publicly condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine. He offered only a 12-point plan to end the war, which was viewed with skepticism by Westerners.
A peace mission led by six African leaders in Ukraine and Russia must leave “as soon as possible”, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Tuesday, saying Kiev and Moscow had “agreed to get it”.
The Russian attack comes a day after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky returned to Kiev after a European tour that included Italy, the Vatican, Germany, France and the United Kingdom.
“For the front (…) return home with new and powerful weapons,” said Mr. Zelensky made the announcement in a video message after receiving new aid pledges.
Mr. Zelensky specifically received long-range attack drones and anti-aircraft missiles from the United Kingdom. He also said he was “very optimistic” about possible deliveries of Western fighter jets, which European countries have so far refused to deliver.
On the diplomatic front, the 46 member states of the Council of Europe are meeting for a summit in Iceland to show their solidarity against Moscow.
The meeting, the fourth for the pan-European body in nearly 75 years, aims to amplify mechanisms to hold Russia criminally responsible for the destruction and crimes caused by its aggression in Ukraine.
Another big topic, the extension of a Ukrainian grain export deal, remained uncertain on Tuesday, with the Kremlin saying “a number of questions” needed to be resolved.