'Both sides suffer heavy casualties' as Ukraine hits back against Russia

UK intelligence said the most intense fighting had centred on the southeastern Zaporizhzhia province and further west in Donetsk province.

Russia and Ukraine are suffering high numbers of military casualties as Ukraine fights to dislodge the Kremlin’s forces from occupied areas in the early stages of its counteroffensive, British officials have said.

Russian losses are probably at their highest level since the peak of the battle for Bakhmut in March, UK military officials said in their latest assessment.

According to British intelligence, the most intense fighting has centred on the southeastern Zaporizhzhia province, around Bakhmut, and further west in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk province.

While the update reported that Ukraine was on the offensive in these areas and had “made small advances”, it said that Russian forces were conducting “relatively effective defensive operations” in Ukraine’s south.

The Ukrainian military said in a regular update on Sunday morning that over the previous 24 hours, Russia had carried out 43 airstrikes, four missile strikes and 51 attacks from multiple rocket launchers.

According to the statement by the General Staff, Russia continued to concentrate its efforts on offensive operations in Ukraine’s industrial east, focusing attacks around Bakhmut, Avdiivka, Marinka and Lyman in the country’s Donetsk province, with 26 combat clashes taking place.

Donetsk regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said that two civilians had been killed, with a further three wounded in the past day.

The most intense fighting is said to have centred on the southeastern Zaporizhzhia province, around Bakhmut. PA Media

Ukrainian officials said Russian forces had also launched airstrikes on other regions of the east and south of the country.

One civilian was killed and four more wounded in Kherson province as a result of Russia’s attacks, regional governor Oleksandr Prokudin said.

While Zaporizhzhia regional governor Yurii Malashko said one person had been wounded in Russian attacks that had hit 20 settlements in the province.

Vladimir Rogov, an official with the Moscow-appointed administration in the partially occupied Zaporizhzhia region, said on Sunday that Ukrainian forces had taken control of the village of Piatykhatky on the Zaporizhzhia battlefront.

Serhiy Bratchuk, spokesperson of the regional government in the southwestern Odesa province, said Ukrainian forces destroyed a “very significant” ammunition depot near the Russian-occupied port city of Henichesk in nearby Kherson province.

South African president Cyril Ramaphosa, left, was among a delegation of African leaders to meet with Russia president Vladimir Putin in recent days.PA Media

“Our armed forces dealt a good blow in the morning,” Bratchuk said in a video message on Sunday morning, posted to his Telegram channel.

Western analysts and military officials have cautioned that Ukraine’s counteroffensive to dislodge the Kremlin’s forces from occupied areas, using western-supplied advanced weapons in attacks along the 600-mile (1,000km) front line could last a long time.

A group of African leaders have carried out a self-styled “peace mission” to both Ukraine and Russia in recent days to try to help end their nearly 16-month-old war, but the visit ended on Saturday with no immediate signs of progress.

Meanwhile, the death toll from flooding following the destruction of the Kakhovka dam had risen to 16 in Ukrainian-held territory, Ukraine’s interior ministry said on Saturday, while Russian officials said 29 people had died in territories controlled by Moscow.

Massive flooding from the destruction of the dam on June 6 devastated towns along the lower Dnieper River in the Kherson region, a front line in the war. Russia and Ukraine accuse each other of causing the breach.

The flooding devastated towns along the lower Dnieper River in the Kherson region. PA Media

Meanwhile, as the deadline for all Russian volunteer formations to sign contracts with Russia’s defence ministry approaches, widely seen as targeting Russia’s Wagner mercenary group, Wagner leader and regular Kremlin critic Yevgeny Prigozhin said on Sunday that 32,000 former prisoners had returned home after the end of their contracts with Wagner in Ukraine.

According to Prigozhin, 83 crimes were committed by those who had returned home, which he claimed was “80 times less” than the number committed by those released from prison over the same period without having served with Wagner.

Prigozhin toured Russian prisons to recruit fighters, promising pardons if they survived a half-year tour of frontline duty with Wagner.

In an interview last month, Prigozhin said he had recruited 50,000 convicts, about 10,000 of whom were killed in Bakhmut.

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