Kyiv, Ukraine (AFP) – Russian forces suffered heavy losses in a Ukrainian attack that destroyed a pontoon bridge they were using to try to cross a river in the east, Ukrainian and British officials said, in another sign of Moscow’s conflict. To save a war that went awry.
Ukrainian authorities, meanwhile, The first war crimes trial opened From conflict Friday. The accused is a captured Russian soldier, accused of shooting dead a 62-year-old civilian in the early days of the war.
The trial began as the Russian offensive in Donbass, Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland, appeared increasingly to turn into a grinding war of attrition.
The Airborne Command of Ukraine released photos and videos of what it said was a destroyed Russian pontoon bridge over the Seversky Donets River and several destroyed or damaged Russian military vehicles nearby. The command said that its forces “swamped the Russian occupiers.”
Britain’s Ministry of Defense said Russia lost “significant maneuverable armored elements” from at least one tactical battalion in the offensive earlier this week.
“Conducting river crossings in a contested environment is an extremely risky maneuver and speaks to the pressure that Russian leaders are under to advance their operations in eastern Ukraine,” the ministry said in its daily intelligence update.
In other developments, questions were raised about Finland’s and possibly Sweden’s move to join NATO when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country “doesn’t have a positive opinion” of the idea. He accused Sweden and other Scandinavian countries of supporting Kurdish militants and others that Turkey considers terrorists.
Erdogan did not explicitly say that he would prevent the two countries from joining NATO. But the military alliance makes its decisions unanimously, which means that each of the 30 member states has a veto over who can join.
NATO enlargement would be a blow to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who went to war in what he described as an attempt to thwart the alliance’s eastward advance. But the invasion of Ukraine has raised fears in other countries along Russia’s flank that it might be next.
With Ukraine demanding more weapons to stave off the invasion, the European Union’s foreign affairs official announced plans to give Kyiv an additional 500 million euros ($520 million) to buy heavy weapons.
Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov has said that heavy weapons from the West now making their way to the front lines – including US 155mm howitzers – will take some time to turn the tide in Ukraine’s favour. He admitted that no quick end to the war was in sight.
“We are entering a new, protracted phase of the war,” Reznikov wrote in a Facebook post. Very difficult weeks lie ahead. How many will there be? Nobody can say for sure.”
The Battle of Donbass turned village after village, back and forth with no major breakthroughs on either side and little ground being achieved.
Independent Ukrainian military analyst Oleh Zhdanov said that fierce battles were taking place on the Siversky Donets near the city of Severodonetsk. He said the Ukrainian army launched counterattacks but failed to stop Russia’s advance.
“The fate of a large part of the Ukrainian army is decided – there are about 40,000 Ukrainian soldiers,” he said.
The commander of the Ukrainian army for the Luhansk region in Donbass said on Friday that Russian forces had opened fire 31 times on residential areas in the previous day, destroying dozens of homes, mainly in the villages of Hersk and Bobasnyanska, and a bridge in Rubijn.
In the south, Ukrainian officials claimed another success in the Black Sea, saying their forces had stormed another Russian ship, although there was no confirmation from Russia and no casualties were reported.
Oleksiy Aristovich, a Ukrainian presidential adviser, said the logistics ship Vsevolod Bobrov was badly damaged but not believed to have sunk when it was bombed while trying to deliver an anti-aircraft system to Sneek Island.
In April, Ukraine sank the Moskva, a guided missile cruiser that was the flagship of the Russian Black Sea Fleet. In March, a landing ship was destroyed.
Justin Crump, a former British tank commander and now a security consultant, said Moscow’s losses had forced it to scale back its targets. He said that the Russians had to use hastily assembled units that did not train together and were therefore less effective.
“This will not be fast. So we are stable in the summer of fighting at least. I think the Russian side is very clear that this will take a long time.
Ukrainian prosecutors are investigating thousands of possible war crimes. Several alleged atrocities came to light last month after Russian forces abandoned their attempt to seize Kyiv and withdrew from across the capital, exposing mass graves and corpses-strewn streets.
In the first war crimes case brought to trial, Russian Sgt. Vadim Shishimarin, 21, could be jailed for life if he is convicted of shooting a Ukrainian man in the head through an open car window in a village in the northeastern Sumy region on February 28, four days after the invasion.
In a small courtroom in Kyiv, dozens of journalists watched the start of wartime proceedings, which international monitors will watch closely to ensure the trial is fair.
Wearing a blue and gray hoodie and gray sweatpants, the accused sat in a small glass cage during the proceedings, which lasted about 15 minutes and will resume on Wednesday.
Shishimarin was asked a series of questions, including whether he understood his rights and whether he wanted a jury trial. The latter refused.
His attorney in charge of Ukraine, Viktor Ovsyanikov, acknowledged that the case against the soldier was strong and did not indicate what his defence was.
Shishimarin, a member of a tank unit captured by Ukrainian forces, admitted that he had shot the civilian in a video released by the Ukrainian Security Service, saying that he had received orders to do so.
As the war drags on, teachers are trying to restore some sense of normalcy after fighting closed Ukraine’s schools and upended the lives of millions of children.
In Kharkiv, the second largest city in Ukraine, lessons are given in a subway station that has become the home of many families. The children joined their teacher Valerie Lecco around a table to learn about history art, with drawings of youngsters lining the walls.
“It helps support them mentally. Because the war is now, and many have lost their homes… some of the people’s parents are quarreling now,” Leko said. Partially back to the lessons, “they feel that someone loves them.”
The older student, Anna Fedoriyaka, watched a professor’s online lectures on Ukrainian literature.
She said the internet connection was a problem for some. and “It’s hard to focus when you have to do your homework with explosions next to your window.”
Yesica Fisch in Bakhmut, Yuras Karmanau in Lviv, Mstyslav Chernov in Kharkiv, Jari Tanner in Helsinki, Elena Becatoros in Odessa, and other AP staff around the world contributed to this report.
Follow the Associated Press’ coverage of the war in Ukraine: https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine