KYIV (AP) — Russian forces were severely damaged in a Ukrainian attack on a pontoon bridge that they used to cross a river to the east. British and Ukrainian officials also said this in another sign of Moscow’s struggle to salvage a war gone awry .
Ukrainian authorities, meanwhile, opened the first war crimes trial of the conflict Friday. The defendant, a captured Russian soldier, stands accused of shooting to death a 62-year-old civilian in the early days of the war. The trial began as Russia’s offensive against Ukraine’s Donbas, Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland turned into an increasingly violent war of attrition.
Ukraine’s airborne command released photos and video of what it said was a damaged Russian pontoon bridge over the Siversky Donets River and several destroyed or damaged Russian military vehicles nearby. The command said its troops “drowned the Russian occupiers.”
Britain’s Defense Ministry said Russia lost “significant armored maneuver elements” of at least one battalion tactical group in the attack earlier this week. A Russian battalion tactical group consists of about 1,000 troops.
“Conducting river crossings in a contested environment is a highly risky maneuver and speaks to the pressure the Russian commanders are under to make progress in their operations in eastern Ukraine,” the ministry said in its daily intelligence update.
In other developments, a move by Finland and, potentially, Sweden to join NATO was thrown into question when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country is “not of a favorable opinion” toward the idea. He said that Sweden and other Scandinavian nations were supporting Kurdish militants as well as terrorists Turkey considers.
Erdogan didn’t say explicitly that he would stop the two countries from joining NATO. But the military alliance makes its decisions by consensus, meaning that each of its 30 member countries has a veto over who can join. An expansion of NATO would be devastating for Russian President Vladimir Putin. He said that the war was to stop the alliance’s eastward march. Other countries on Russia’s western flank are worried that they might be next in the wake the Ukraine invasion.
With Ukraine pleading for more arms to fend off the invasion, the European Union’s foreign affairs chief announced plans to give Kyiv an additional 500 million euros ($520 million) to buy heavy weapons.
Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov welcomed the heavy weapons making their way to the front lines but admitted there is no quick end to the war in sight.
” We are now in a new, longer-term phase of war,” he said in a Facebook post. “Extremely difficult days lie ahead of us. We don’t know how many. No one can say for sure.”
The battle for the Donbas has turned into a village-by-village, back-and-forth slog with no major breakthroughs on either side and little ground gained.
Fierce fighting is taking place near Severodonetsk on the Siversky Donets River, according to Oleh Zhdanov (an independent Ukrainian military analyst). He said that the Ukrainian military launched counterattacks, but failed to stop Russia’s advance.
“The fate of a large portion of the Ukrainian army is being decided — there are about 40,000 Ukrainian soldiers,” he said.
The Ukrainian military chief for the Luhansk region of the Donbas said Friday that Russian forces opened fire 31 times on residential areas the day before, destroying dozens of homes, notably in Hirske and Popasnianska villages, and a bridge in Rubizhne. In the south, Ukrainian officials claimed another victory in the Black Sea. They said that their forces had taken out a Russian logistic ship trying to deliver anti-aircraft systems. There was no Russian confirmation and no casualties.
Ukrainian fighters hid in a steel plant in the devastated southern port of Mariupol as they faced Russian attacks on their last stronghold of resistance. Sviatoslav Palmar, deputy commander of Ukraine’s Azov Regiment said that his troops would fight on despite a lack of ammunition, food and medicine.
Justin Crump is a former British tank commander and security consultant who said that Moscow’s losses forced them to reduce their objectives in Ukraine. According to Crump, the Russians are using haphazardly assembled units that weren’t properly trained. This is not going to happen quickly. We’re now ready for another summer of fighting. He said that the Russian side was very clear that it would take a while.
In the first war crime case brought to trial, Russian Sgt. Vadim Shyshimarin, 21, could get life in prison if convicted of shooting a Ukrainian man in the head through an open car window in a village in the northeastern Sumy region o