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Ukraine war: Counteroffensive gains, biggest drone attack on Russia, two killed in Kyiv

FILE - Four Russian rockets launched against Ukraine from Russia's Belgorod region are seen at dawn in Kharkiv, Ukraine, late Thursday, Feb. 16, 2023.
FILE - Four Russian rockets launched against Ukraine from Russia's Belgorod region are seen at dawn in Kharkiv, Ukraine, late Thursday, Feb. 16, 2023. Copyright Vadim Belikov/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved.
Copyright Vadim Belikov/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved.
By Euronews with AP/AFP
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All the latest developments from the war in Ukraine.

Ukraine claims its advance in the south opens the way to Crimea

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Ukraine said it had cleared the way for its offensive into the Russian-occupied south with the capture this week of the "strategic" town of Robotyne, describing the victory as a major breakthrough.

"By being entrenched on the flanks of Robotyne, we are opening the way to [the southern towns[ of Tokmak, then finally to Melitopol and the [administrative[ border of Crimea," Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kouleba told French diplomats in Paris on Tuesday, in a speech made public on Wednesday.

The Russian army has so far not announced its retreat from Robotyne but has reported heavy fighting in the area and on the outskirts of the nearby town of Verbove.

"The Robotyne-Verbove grey zone is going to become a mass grave for Ukraine's armed forces," proclaimed the head of the Russian occupation for the Zaporizhzhia region, Evgeny Balitsky, on Telegram.

The Ukrainian counteroffensive launched in June in the east and south is proving very difficult, with limited advances in terms of 2 kilometres.

In particular, it had to contend with solid Russian defences, consisting of trenches, anti-tank traps and minefields stretching for hundreds of kilometres, especially in the south.

Biggest drone attack on Russia since fighting began

Moscow has accused Ukraine of launching supposedly one of the biggest drone attacks on Russian soil since it invaded 18 months ago.

Drones hit an airport in Russia’s western Pskov region near the border with Estonia and Latvia, sparking a massive fire, the governor and local media reported.

More drones were shot down over Oryol, Bryansk, Ryazan, Kaluga and the Moscow region surrounding the Russian capital, according to the Russian Defence Ministry.

All flights to and from Pskov airport were cancelled on Wednesday so the impact of one strike, involving between 10 and 20 drones, could be assessed in the daylight. 

Four Il-76 transport aircraft were damaged, Russia’s state news agency Tass reported, citing emergency officials.

Footage and images posted on social media showed smoke billowing over Pskov city and a large blaze. 

Regional Governor Mikhail Vedernikov said there were no casualties, with the fire contained. He added it was the largest drone strike on Russian soil attack since the fighting began in February 2022. 

Two killed in drone strike on Kyiv

Two people died Wednesday morning in the largest Russian strike on Kyiv "since spring", according to military authorities in the Ukrainian capital. 

Falling debris killed two men and injured another after Russia launched a “massive combined attack” on the Ukrainian capital involving drones and missiles, the head of the local military administration Sergei Popko wrote on Telegram.

Explosions in Ukraine were also reported in the southern city of Odesa and the Cherkasy region.

In May, Ukraine said it had countered the "largest drone attack" on Kyiv "since the start of the Russian invasion". At least 59 drones were fired at the Ukrainian capital, then killing two. 

Ukrainian speedboats destroyed says Russia

Moscow claimed to have destroyed Ukrainian military boats carrying special forces off the coast of the annexed Crimean peninsula.

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On Wednesday at around midnight, a Russian aircraft in the Black Sea "destroyed four military speed boats [carrying] landing groups of Ukrainian special forces [of] up to 50 people", said the Russian Ministry of Defence.

It did not provide further information. 

A Ukrainian drone attack on occupied Crimea was also reported, but the local Russian Governor Mikhail said the situation was "under control".

However, he did not say how many drones had been destroyed. 

Ukraine congratulated itself on Thursday for having carried out a rare commando operation in the Crimean peninsula, annexed by Moscow in 2014.

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On August 22, Russia also claimed to have "destroyed" a launch carrying Ukrainian soldiers in the Black Sea, after claiming the same day the destruction of a reconnaissance vessel.

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