Putin hails Moscow’s biggest military success since the capture of Bakhmut in May.
Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu says Russian troops have gained full control of the eastern Ukrainian town of Maryinka, registering their first major success since the capture of the strategic city of Bakhmut in May.
Shoigu told President Vladimir Putin on Monday about the capture of what has now become a ghost town just southwest of the Russian-held regional capital of Donetsk during a video exchange shared by a Kremlin journalist.
“I want to congratulate you. This is a success,” Putin is seen telling Shoigu in the video, saying it gives Russian troops “the opportunity to move into a wider operational area”.
Piles of rubble and gutted apartment buildings could be seen in drone images shown on Russian television that were said to be of Maryinka, which was once home to 10,000 people.
Putin had offered to award soldiers who had distinguished themselves in the battle for Maryinka, The Moscow Times reported.
The Ukrainian military denied Russia’s claims of Maryinka’s capture, which came at a difficult time for Kyiv. It has been struggling to make gains in recent months, and waning Western support, particularly critical US funding, threatens its fight against Russia.
“It’s not correct to talk about seizing Maryinka,” Ukrainian military spokesperson Oleksandr Shtupun told Ukrainian national television.
“Our forces are within the city,” he said.
Russia’s last major success, the capture of Bakhmut, spurred Ukraine to launch a counteroffensive in June. But Kyiv’s forces have made little progress against what is now entrenched Russian resistance in the 22-month-old conflict.
Russian troops have been intensifying ground and air attacks on the nearby town of Avdiivka since mid-October as they focus on expanding their slow-moving push through eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region.
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s air force on Monday reported that it had shot down two Russian fighter jets during the night along with two cruise missiles and 28 Shahed-type kamikaze drones.
The report said the attacks were aimed at southern and central regions of Ukraine but that no casualties were immediately known. It said 31 drones were launched in all, but details of what the three that weren’t intercepted may have struck weren’t given.
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