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Ukraine war: Bakhmut progress reported, value of Russian ruble sinks

A Ukrainian soldier watches a Grad multiple launch rocket system firing shells with flyers near Bakhmut, Donetsk region, Ukraine, Sunday, Aug. 13, 2023
A Ukrainian soldier watches a Grad multiple launch rocket system firing shells with flyers near Bakhmut, Donetsk region, Ukraine, Sunday, Aug. 13, 2023 Copyright AP Photo
Copyright AP Photo
By Euronews with AP, AFP
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The latest developments from the war in Ukraine.

Ukraine reports Bakhmut progress

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On Monday, Ukraine claimed some gains in the east and south of the country, small steps forward in its gruelling counter-offensive launched two months ago to liberate these Russian-occupied territories.

In the east, the battle for Bakhmut is still raging, and has been for a year. Taken in May by the Russians after months of bloody fighting, it is now Moscow's troops who are on the defensive in this ravaged city, which has become a symbol of the war.

"In the Bakhmut sector, three square kilometres were liberated last week. In total, 40 square kilometres have already been liberated on the southern flank of the Bakhmut sector", announced Ganna Maliar, Ukraine's Deputy Defence Minister.

On the other hand, Ukraine is in difficulty further north, around Kupiansk, so it has not been able to "concentrate (its) forces on the offensive in the Bakhmut sector", according to Ms Maliar.

For its part, the Russian Ministry of Defence stated in its daily communiqué on Monday that it had "successfully repelled" attacks in the Kupiansk area, where it had claimed gains last week and where Ukraine had consequently ordered the evacuation of dozens of small towns.

On the southern front, where Ukrainian forces have been trying for weeks to find the weak points in the Russian defence lines, made up of minefields, trenches and anti-tank booby-traps, Mrs Maliar was vague, but nevertheless reported progress.

"Hostilities are continuing in the town of Urozhaine, and we have had some successes", she said.

Finally, in the Kherson region (south), the deputy minister reported "actions" by "certain units" of the Ukrainian army on the eastern bank of the Dnieper, where the Russian army withdrew in November 2022, the river becoming the front line.

Russia, led by Vladimir Putin, repeats over and over again that the Ukrainian counter-offensive has already failed. 

Ruble hits lowest level since early in the war

The Russian ruble on Monday reached its lowest value since the early weeks of the war in Ukraine as Moscow increases military spending and Western sanctions weigh on its energy exports.

It led Russia's central bank to announce it will hold an emergency meeting on Tuesday to review its key interest rate, opening the possibility of an increase in borrowing costs that would support the flagging ruble.

The Russian currency passed 101 rubles to the dollar, continuing a more than 25% decline in its value since the beginning of the year and hitting the lowest level in almost 17 months. The ruble recovered slightly after the central bank's announcement.

The meeting was set after President Vladimir Putin's economic adviser, Maksim Oreshkin, blamed the weak ruble on "loose monetary policy" in an op-ed Monday for state news agency Tass. He said a strong ruble is in the interest of the Russian economy and that a weak currency "complicates economic restructuring and negatively affects people’s real incomes."

Oreshkin said Russia's central bank has "all the tools necessary" to stabilise the situation and said he expected normalisation shortly.

Analysts say the weakening of the ruble is being driven by increased defence spending - leading imports to rise - and falling exports, particularly in the oil and natural gas sector. Importing more and exporting less means a smaller trade surplus, which typically weighs on a country’s currency.

Germany pledges financial support for Ukraine

German Finance Minister Christian Lindner assured Ukraine of Berlin's support on Monday during his first visit to Kyiv since the start of the Russian invasion.

"We are at Ukraine's side", said the minister after arriving in Kyiv by train for a surprise visit, during which he held talks with Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Chmygal and the mayor of Kyiv, Vitali Klitschko, among others.

Since the start of the Russian invasion in February 2022, Germany has provided Ukraine with some €22 billion in humanitarian, financial and military aid, said the Liberal minister, a member of Olaf Scholz's coalition.

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"Ukraine must not lose this war", he added.

Using Telegram, Denys Shmygal said he had had "an important meeting" with Mr Lindner in Kyiv and thanked the German government for its support.

The two countries are working on five different investment projects worth around €247 million and are studying three other projects that would total more than €70 million, Mr Shmygal added.

"We look forward to the participation of German companies" in Ukraine's post-war reconstruction, he added.

Ukraine says attack on Odesa was thwarted

Ukraine's air defence systems thwarted Russian missile and drone attacks on the southern Odesa region overnight from Sunday to Monday, although three people were injured, the Ukrainian army said.

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"The enemy attacked the Odesa region three times during the night, (using) two waves of attack drones, a total of 15 (drones), and 8 missiles" of the Kalibr type, the Operational Command said Ukrainian for the south of the country on Telegram, adding that all attacks were foiled by air defences.

According to the Kyiv army, the dormitory of a training establishment, as well as a store, were damaged by debris resulting from the destruction of missiles "directed towards the centre of Odesa".

“Three supermarket employees were injured” according to initial information and received medical assistance, the Command said.

Windows, balconies of several buildings, as well as cars parked nearby were also damaged by the "shock wave" and two fires broke out, the army said.

In photos and videos posted on Telegram by the army, firefighters try to extinguish the high flames igniting what appears to be a store from which escapes a large plume of smoke.

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The number of attacks in the Black Sea has increased on both sides in recent weeks.

The Russian army has repeatedly struck the port city of Odesa but also the river ports of Izmail and Reni, attacks denounced by Kyiv as a means of hindering its exports.

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