On Wednesday, Ukraine prepared to halt the flow of some Russian gas to Europe via a key transit point, as it claimed battlefield victories over invading Russian forces, including the recapture of four villages around Kharkiv’s second city.
Even after President Vladimir Putin ordered a “special military operation” on Feb. 24, Ukraine has remained a major route for Russian gas to Europe.
Western sanctions are increasing their efforts to ban or phase out the use of Russian energy, a major source of funding for Putin’s war effort and a vulnerability for Europe, particularly Germany.
Ukraine’s gas operator said it would redirect gas from the Sokhranivka transit point, which is in an area occupied by Russian forces, to another in a Ukraine-controlled area, blaming the suspension on Russian occupying forces’ interference.
Russia’s main force has been attempting to encircle Ukrainian troops in the eastern Donbas region since the end of March, using the city of Izyum near Kharkiv in the northeast as a base.
Ukrainian troops have mostly held out against three-pronged assaults, and top US intelligence officials say the war has reached a standstill.
Putin appeared to be preparing for a long conflict, and a Russian victory in the Donbas region might not be enough to end the conflict, according to Avril Haines, Director of National Intelligence for the United States, in Washington on Tuesday.
However, the counterattack near Kharkiv may herald a new phase, with Ukraine going on the offensive and supply lines into Russia potentially jeopardised.
Ukrainian successes, according to President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, are gradually pushing Russian forces out of Kharkiv, which has been bombarded since the war began.
“But I also want to encourage all of our people… not to spread too many emotions. We must avoid creating an environment of excessive moral pressure in which victories are expected on a weekly, if not daily, basis “In a video address, Zelenskiy stated.
According to Reuters witnesses, Ukrainian servicemen gathered the bodies of Russian soldiers killed in the fighting in the villages of Staryi Saltiv and Vilkhivka near Kharkiv.
Russian forces were attempting to prevent Ukrainian troops from moving further towards the border in the Kharkiv region, as well as fully occupying the town of Rubizhne, according to Ukraine’s general staff early Wednesday.
Border guards in Ukraine reported Russian forces shelling the Sumy and Chernihiv regions near the border.
“Two times, enemy aircraft launched unguided missiles on Sumy border areas. There were also two mortar shelling incidents in the Chernihiv region “They stated this in their Telegram channel.
In the south, Ukrainian armed forces said they hit nine enemy targets, killing 79 enemy servicemen and destroying 12 pieces of enemy equipment, including armoured vehicles and howitzers.
Russian fire was concentrated in the Mykolaiv region, destroying private homes, farms, and power lines to one town.
Russian forces continued to bombard the Azovstal steelworks in the southern port of Mariupol with artillery, tanks, and aircraft bombing, according to Ukraine’s general staff, in an attempt to capture the city’s last bastion of Ukrainian resistance.
According to Ukraine, tens of thousands of people have been killed in the city during the two-month Russian siege.
Hundreds of civilians have been evacuated from the steelworks in recent days, but an aide to Mariupol mayor Petro Andryushchenko said at least 100 remain.
According to the United Nations, the number of Ukrainians fleeing their country is approaching 6 million, making the refugee crisis the fastest growing since World War II.
Russia denies targeting civilians and denies allegations of war crimes made by Ukraine and the West.