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Ukraine claims gains on south front and near Bakhmut

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KYIV: Ukraine said on Monday its forces had recaptured small clutches of land from Russian forces along the southern front and near Bakhmut, regions where Kyiv's troops have focused their slow-moving counter-offensive.

Kyiv launched its bid to wrest back territory controlled by Moscow in June, after stockpiling Western-supplied weapons and recruiting assault battalions.

Its efforts have focused on the war-battered town of Bakhmut in the eastern Donetsk region, as well as several points along the frontline in the south, towards Crimea.

"Two square kilometres were liberated in the Bakhmut sector," Deputy Defence Minister Ganna Malyar said on state media.

Her announcement came one day after Kyiv said its forces had retaken Klishchiivka, a village south of Bakhmut, which was captured by Russian forces in May after one of the longest and bloodiest battles of the war.

Malyar also said Ukrainian forces had clawed back 5.2 square kilometres in the south, where its forces are working to push deeper at two points along the front.

But Ukraine's progress against entrenched Russian positions has been limited since June, spurring debate among Kyiv's Western allies over its military strategy.

Russian forces meanwhile have pursued their aerial bombardment campaign, targeting Ukraine's southern regions and maritime export hubs in particular.

Ukraine said on Monday its air defence systems had downed a swarm of attack drones and nearly 20 cruise missiles in Russia's latest aerial barrage overnight.

"A total of 24 strike UAVs were recorded around the Mykolaiv and Odesa regions. Eighteen attack drones were shot down by air defence units," the air force said.

It added that its forces had shot down all 17 cruise missiles fired by Russian forces overnight.

Kyiv has at the same time stepped up its aerial attacks on Russia. Moscow said it repelled Ukrainian drones over outer Moscow and two border regions -- as well as over several parts of occupied Crimea.

Crimea has been targeted throughout the war but attacks there have intensified as Kyiv vows to recapture the Black Sea peninsula.

And since Ukraine launched its counter-offensive, Russia has weathered waves of drone attacks that have damaged buildings, including in the capital Moscow.

But Russian officials have downplayed their significance.

"Drones were intercepted over the western, southwestern, northwestern and eastern parts of the Crimean peninsula; Istra and Domodedovo districts of Moscow region, Belgorod and Voronezh regions," the defence ministry said. — AFP

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