Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense on Monday said the military recaptured strategic gas and oil drilling platforms from Russia in the Black Sea. Kyiv claimed gains in occupied areas near Bakhmut, a city in eastern Ukraine left in ruins after the war’s longest and deadliest fighting.
The recapture of the so-called Boyko Towers (‘Boyko Towers’ are named after former Ukrainian Minister Yuriy Boyko, who was a member of a now-outlawed pro-Russian party) platforms provides an energy source and takes back an asset that Russia seized in 2015 and used to launch helicopters.
Ukrainian Main Intelligence Directorate said Russia has been deprived of the ability to fully control the waters of the Black Sea, and this makes Ukraine many steps closer to regaining Crimea.
The Ukrainian government under the leadership of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy vowed to do all the country can to bring back Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014. Zelenskyy urged international allies to support the effort to bring back Crimea into Ukraine.
The reports of Ukraine’s battlefront gains came at the time when North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s train tour to Russia for a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
However, the report about the battlefront gains could not be independently confirmed.
North Korea may provide arms to Russia
The meeting announced by the two leaders’ countries could include discussions of North Korea providing arms to restock Russia’s dwindling arsenal.
US officials released intelligence last week indicating that North Korea and Russia were arranging a Putin-Kim meeting for sometime this month as they expand cooperation in the face of deepening confrontations with the United States.
In other developments, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock made an unannounced visit to Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital. She promised support for Ukraine’s path toward European Union membership while calling for additional reforms in the country.
“With enormous courage and determination, Ukraine is also defending the freedom of all of us,” Baerbock said in a statement released by her ministry. “In the same way that Ukraine stands up for us, it can also count on us.”
Baerbock also pledged continued military, economic, and humanitarian support for the country and said the 22 billion euros (USD 23.6 million) provided so far now made Germany second to the US in terms of total support.
Baerbock said that while Ukraine had already made good progress reforming the judiciary and the media, it still had “some way to go” in combating corruption.
In fighting, Ukrainian forces liberated part of the Donetsk province town of Optyne and advanced on the towns of Klishchiivka and Andriivka south of Bakhmut, Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar said.
Combat has persisted on the outskirts of Bakhmut since Ukrainian troops pulled out of the city in May. Ukraine is trying to gain the high ground in Klishchiivka, to establish artillery control over Bakhmut.
In southern Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia province, Ukraine’s primary counteroffensive forces were inching closer to overcoming Russian fortifications and dense minefields to take Tokmak, a critical logistics hub for Russian forces and a vital railway junction, Malyar said.
Ukrainian forces liberated Robotyne, a town in the same province, last month. Russian forces also attacked the Dnipropetrovsk province city of Kryvyi Rih, Zelenskyy’s birthplace, with drones overnight, Ukrainian authorities said. There were no immediate reports of casualties or damage.
The retaking of the Black Sea platforms follows the UK Ministry of Defense reporting naval and air force skirmishes at sea two weeks ago.
Ukraine has struck several Russian-controlled platforms in fighting during the war, and troops from both countries have occupied them periodically, the UK said in a military update on the war.
Along with drilling, the platforms can be used to land helicopters, as deployment bases and to position long-range missile systems.
Pro-Russia occupation authorities seized the platforms operated by the Chernomorneftegaz company following the annexation of Crimea, which most of the world regarded as illegal.
After Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine more than 18 months ago, Putin illegally annexed four provinces in September 2022: Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia.
Voting for Kremlin-installed legislatures began in the occupied areas last week as Russian authorities attempt to tighten their grip on territories that Moscow still does not fully control.
Russia’s Central Election Commission said Monday that the country’s ruling party, United Russia, placed first in the four Ukrainian regions and in Crimea.
(With AP inputs)