On the Ukraine front, civilians hang on as troops push back Russia

VUHLEDAR, Ukraine (AP) – Turbid water slowly flows from a filthy drain pipe into its grimy container – ticking seconds increases the risk of Emilia Podskaya losing life or a limb to Russian artillery strikes The torture of her home town on the front line in eastern Ukraine.

Shrapnel wounds in the courtyard walls around her bear witness to the dangers of venturing outside — exposed and without the body armor worn by the Ukrainian soldiers defending Voldar when they emerge from their hiding places.

But Podskaya and her daughter need water to hold on and survive, to spend another day in the ruins.

And so they wait – tick, tick, tick – until the container is full, then Budskaya will pour water into plastic bottles and – tick, tick, tick – until the process starts again until their bottles are full.

They make their way through the wreckage and mud, and make their bounty back into the dark basement that now runs through their home.

We have no water, nothing, says Podskaya. “I get rainwater for washing dishes and hands.”

On a largely static frontline between Ukrainian and Russian forces that stretches over hundreds of kilometers, from the Black Sea in the south to Ukraine’s northeastern border with Russia, Voldar has become one of the deadliest hotspots.

I joined BakhmutAnd Marinka and other cities and towns, particularly in the fiercely contested eastern Ukraine, as evidence of a grinding and devastating war of attrition, as well as symbols of fierce Ukrainian resistance.

By defending its ruins, Ukrainian forces are slowing Russia’s costly offensive effort to extend Moscow’s control over the entire industrial Donbass region of eastern Ukraine. It became Russian President Vladimir Putin’s revised target for the invasion after his forces were routed from the capital Kiev and northern Ukraine in the first phase of the invasion a year ago.

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Ukrainian soldiers are also paying a heavy price, but they say their sacrifices wear out the waves of troops and equipment Moscow is throwing into battle.

In Bakhmut, a soldier who allowed himself only his war name, “expert,” said the devastated city in the Donbass Donetsk region “has become a stronghold to Ukraine.

“See what they did to her?” He said about the Russian forces that have been bombing Bakhmut for monthsSlowly forward with heavy losses to win a prize, if it fell, might allow Moscow to say that the invasion was progressing.

“And this is not the only city,” added the soldier, who is fighting in the Ukrainian rapid reaction unit. “I hope they break their teeth trying to chew on it.”

The battlefields around Voldar, southwest of Bakhmut and also in the Donetsk region testify to the precious equipment and manpower Russia is spending, with few territorial gains. Tanks and other armored fighting vehicles that have been blown up by mines or stopped in their tracks by the Ukrainian strikes huddle together in the blasted terrain.

Although Russia has captured most of the Luhansk region Also forming part of Donbass, the neighboring region of Donetsk remains roughly divided between Ukrainian and Russian control.

On Sunday, the Ukrainian military said that Russian attacks in the east were still focused on Bakhmut and other targets.

The Russian forces include mercenaries from the notorious Wagner Group, a private military company that recruited fighters from prisons and threw them into the fight, with high casualty rates. Its owner is a millionaire with long connections with Putin, convicted ex-criminal Yevgeny PrigozhinOn Saturday, his fighters advanced to a settlement on the northern outskirts of Bakhmut. The Ukrainian military disputed this claim, saying that Russian forces had pushed back.

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Donetsk Governor Pavlo Kirilenko said three civilians were killed and four wounded in Russian strikes on Saturday. He said that Fuldar and the surrounding areas were subjected to heavy bombardment. And along the frontline, in the southern Kherson region also split between Ukrainian and Russian control, Governor Oleksandr Prokudin reported two civilians were killed and seven others wounded in 78 Russian raids in the area on Saturday.

The Ukrainian soldiers, on patrol in the ruins of Voldar, scurrying down the muddy roads to hide behind the pothole walls, said their fight was bigger than theirs for control of the city.

“We are fighting for our children, for our Ukrainian brothers, and for our nation,” said a Marine who goes by the war name Moriak.

“Because I think what Russia is doing now is a genocide of Ukrainians. And the Ukrainians have no other choice but to win.”

In other developments Sunday:

On the occasion of the anniversary of Russia’s occupation of Ukraine’s Crimea in 2014, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky expressed confidence that the return of the peninsula to Ukrainian control would be part of ending the war.

“This is our land. Our people. Our history. We will return the Ukrainian flag to every corner of Ukraine,” Zelensky wrote in Telegram.

US State Department spokesman Ned Price reiterated on Sunday that “The United States does not and will never recognize Russia’s alleged annexation of the peninsula. Crimea is Ukraine.”

When asked if the United States would support a Ukrainian military effort to retake Crimea, White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said on CNN’s “State of the Union”: “What ultimately happens with Crimea in the context of this war? And the settlement of this war is a matter for the Ukrainians to decide, with the support of the United States.

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On Sunday, the Ukrainian army said that Russian forces are building fortifications in Crimea to strengthen its defense, and it is alleged that it has brought 150 Russian conscripts from Russia’s Chelyabinsk region, near the Ural Mountains, to perform engineering work.

– Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Farhan bin Faisal visited Kiev to sign an agreement under which Riyadh will provide humanitarian aid and financing for purchases of oil derivatives. “We hope this will help alleviate the suffering of the Ukrainian people during this humanitarian crisis,” he said of the $400 million agreement.


John Lister in Kiev, Ukraine, and Elise Morton in London contributed to this report.


Follow AP coverage of the war in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine And the anniversary of the invasion https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine-a-year-of-war

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