Russia-Ukraine struggle information: Russian defenses close to Verbove breached, Ukrainian officers say

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Russian Navy members patrol the headquarters of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol, Crimea, last year. (AFP/Getty Images)

Ukrainian armored vehicles have pushed through Russian lines of defense near the southern village of Verbove, a local commander told The Washington Post on Saturday. The small village in Zaporizhzhia has been the site of intense fighting in recent weeks, and is located a few miles from Robotyne, which Ukrainian forces recently liberated.

Ukraine’s special forces claimed on Telegram early Saturday that its strike on Russia’s Black Sea Fleet headquarters in occupied Crimea had targeted a meeting of the fleet’s leadership, and killed and wounded dozens, including top officials. Russia confirmed damage to the building from Friday’s strike, but gave few details on casualties.

Here’s the latest on the war and its ripple effects across the globe.

Ukrainian armored vehicles had breached the “Surovikin line” near Verbove, the commander said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss battlefield developments candidly. The “Surovikin line” refers to three defensive belts with minefields and trenches, which Russia constructed to slow Ukraine’s counteroffensive. General Oleksandr Tarnavsky told CNN his troops had made a “breakthrough” near Verbove, although progress was “not as fast as it was expected.” Meanwhile, the Institute for the Study of War, a think tank, has described Ukraine’s ability to push through Russian defenses and operate armored vehicles “near prepared Russian defensive positions” as “important signs of progress in the Ukrainian counteroffensive.”

The armored vehicles observed in the breach underscore the need for soldiers to retake territory on foot. Open source imagery of the operation shows U.S.-provided Strykers, which have limited protection against threats like tanks and anti-armor rockets, heading into the fight. Their biggest value is quickly reaching a position to drop off 11 soldiers at a time, which is a greater capacity than vehicles like Bradleys and Humvees provide. The imagery also shows vehicles like Western mine resistant vehicles, which offer protection for soldiers on their way to the fight, and German-made Marder vehicles, which use heavier weapons to destroy enemy vehicles and help defend friendly personnel carriers.

Russian media reported that six people were injured in Friday’s strike on the Black Sea Fleet headquarters in Crimea, but officials have not confirmed the number. Initially, Russia’s Defense Ministry said one service member was killed but later issued a statement saying he was missing. Ukraine’s armed forces described it as a “successful attack.” A geolocated video, verified by Storyful and confirmed by The Washington Post, showed smoke rising from the building in Sevastopol, a strategic target that was thought to be well-defended. Friday’s strike is the latest attack on Russian military infrastructure throughout the peninsula, which was illegally annexed in 2014.

The United States plans to supply Ukraine with a version of ATACMS long-range missiles armed with cluster bomblets rather than a single warhead, The Post reported. Ukraine has been asking since last year for ATACMS, which stands for Army Tactical Missile System. Cluster-armed ATACMS can have a range of up to 190 miles, depending on the version, and would allow Ukraine to strike targets far behind Russian front lines and dug-in defenses.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky arrived in Toronto on Friday, where he met with business leaders to discuss private sector investment in Ukraine and greeted people gathered at an Armed Forces facility to show their support. The surprise trip to Canada, his first to the country since Russia’s full-scale invasion, follows a whirlwind week of travel for Zelensky, which also included stops in New York and Washington.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau framed the war in Ukraine as a defense of global democracy. “You are on the front lines, not just of the fight for Ukraine, but in the fight for the kind of future we are all going to be living in,” he said. Canada has provided more than 8.9 billion Canadian dollars ($6.6 billion) since January 2022, in direct financial aid and military equipment, according to Trudeau’s office.

A Russian missile strike in the Ukrainian city of Kremenchuk killed one and injured 31, including three children, Dmytro Lunin, a regional official, wrote on Telegram. Sixteen people had to be hospitalized, Lunin said, and civilian infrastructure was damaged.

Russian spies are using hackers to identify and obtain information and evidence about alleged Russian war crimes in Ukraine, the head of Ukraine’s cyber defense said Friday. Yurii Shchyhol, who leads the State Service of Special Communications and Information Protection of Ukraine, told Reuters news agency that hackers had moved their attention from energy infrastructure to law enforcement. “This shift, towards the courts, prosecutors and law enforcement units, shows that hackers are gathering evidence about Russian war crimes in Ukraine” and the Ukrainian investigations, he added.

Three commanders of Russia’s most prestigious airborne regiments have either resigned or been killed since the war in Ukraine began in February 2022, the British Defense Ministry said Saturday. The experience of the 247th Guards Air Assault Landing Regiment “highlights the extreme attrition and high turnover in Russia’s deployed military, even amongst relatively senior ranks,” the ministry wrote on Twitter.

Zelensky gave Ukrainian state awards to two Polish nationals, TV journalist Bianka Zalewska and civilian medic Damian Duda, on Saturday. Zelensky’s gesture follows several days of tension with Warsaw after he angered its leaders with remarks to the U.N. General Assembly about countries that blocked grain imports. On Saturday, Zelensky shared a short video on X announcing the honors and said in an English translation, “I thank Poland for its invaluable support and solidarity that helps defend freedom of our entire Europe!”

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said he wanted “to tell President Zelensky to never insult Poles again,” in an interview that Polish media published earlier, referring to Zelensky’s speech. Poland threatened to stop sending more arms to Ukraine as a result of the spat, though Polish President Andrzej Duda appeared to backtrack the threat.

Romanian Prime Minister Marcel Ciolacu will visit Kyiv to finalize discussions on Ukrainian grain imports, local media reported. A surge of Ukrainian grain in neighboring countries, as a result of war blockages in Black Sea ports, has driven down prices, angering local farmers and prompting the European Commission to temporarily ban Ukrainian grain imports in its five E.U. neighbors. The ban expired this month, causing Poland, Hungary and Slovakia to impose their own restrictions.

During Zelensky’s visit, Canada announced it would impose sanctions on an additional 63 Russian individuals and entities, including a number of universities, think tanks, publications and youth organizations.

Iraq’s Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani will visit Moscow in the coming weeks, according to the Iraqi Foreign Ministry. Sudani mentioned arrangements for the trip “within the next few weeks” during a Friday meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, the ministry said in a statement on Saturday.

Watch Ukraine’s helicopters fire rocket salvos — from treetop level: Helicopters are becoming increasingly useful in Ukraine’s inching counteroffensive. The flights are risky because Ukraine does not have choppers or crews to spare, and Russian fighter jets are ghosts in the region’s skies — often seeing the helicopters without being seen, crews told The Post.

Despite the danger, their work is essential to keep pressure on the enemy, Yevhen Kulbida, a commander in the 18th Tactical Aviation Brigade, said. The missions also serve as a thundering deliverance for the Ukrainian troops they fly over, Alex Horton and Serhii Korolchuk write. “They understand that they’re not alone,” Kulbida said.

Anastacia Galouchka contributed to this report.



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