The fate of Ukraine’s second largest power plant hangs in the balance after Russian-backed forces claimed to have captured it as is, but Kyiv did not confirm its capture, saying only that fighting was underway nearby.
The capture of the Soviet-era Vohlhersk coal-fired power plant in eastern Ukraine would be Moscow’s first strategic gain in more than three weeks in what it calls its “special operation” to disarm and “discredit” its neighbor.
Russia and Russia-backed forces have been struggling to make tangible advances on the ground since their takeover in early July of the eastern Ukrainian city of Lyschansk.
Unverified footage surfaced on social media on Wednesday showing fighters from Russia’s private military company Wagner standing in front of the Vohlhersk power plant, which some Russian state media reported – citing Russian-backed officials – had been separately stormed.
Ukraine did not confirm the capture of the power plant, only saying that “hostile actions” were underway in two nearby regions. On Monday, it said “enemy units” had made some gains around the plant.
British military intelligence said on Wednesday that Wagner fighters had most likely succeeded in making a tactical advance in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine around the power plant and the nearby village of Novolohansky.
She said some Ukrainian forces may have withdrawn from the area.
Russia initially sought to capture the capital, Kyiv, in the early days of its conquest but later retreated, concentrating its efforts on the eastern Donbass region of Ukraine.
At least one person was killed in a Russian raid on a hotel in the town of Bakhmut, north of the power plant, said Pavlo Kirilenko, the governor of Ukraine’s Donetsk province that is part of the Donbass. They said they wanted to pick up.
According to preliminary information, there are dead and wounded. “A rescue operation is underway,” Kirilenko wrote on Facebook. The local emergency service said the death toll and four wounded had so far been confirmed.
Ukraine collides with a bridge in Kherson
Meanwhile, Russian forces suffered a setback in the Kherson region of southern Ukraine after Ukrainian forces struck an important bridge along the Dnipro River with what a Russian-appointed local official said were US-supplied high-mobility artillery missile systems.
Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said on Twitter that the attacks on bridges over the Dnipro River had created an “impossible dilemma” for Russia.
Kirill Strimosov, deputy head of the regional administration installed by Russia in Kherson, confirmed that the bridge was hit during the night and traffic stopped.
But he sought to minimize damage, insisting that the attack would not affect the outcome of hostilities “in any way”.
Adviser to the Ukrainian president, Mikhailo Podolak, said on Twitter that Russians cannot “escape from reality” and must “learn to swim across the Dnipro River”.
You can call the Antonivsʹkyy bridge a ru-air defense that intercepts all UA missiles, but you can’t escape from reality – the occupiers have to learn how to swim across the Dnipro River. Or you should leave Kherson as long as possible. There may be no third warning.
– Михайло Подоляк (Podolyak_M) 27 July 2022
Ukrainian forces in recent weeks have returned to reclaim territory in the Kherson region, which fell into the hands of Russian forces easily and early after their invasion, which began on February 24.
Their counterattack, backed by long-range artillery supplied by the West, pushed its forces to approach the city of Kherson, whose pre-war population was about 300,000 people.
Ukraine said on Wednesday it had resumed operations at its blockaded Black Sea ports as it moved closer to resuming grain exports, with the opening of a coordination center to oversee a United Nations-backed deal.
Kyiv said it hoped to start sending the first batch of millions of tons of grain “this week” despite Russia’s missile strike at the weekend on the port of Odessa.
The Ukrainian Navy said “work has resumed” at export centers to prepare to escort ships through mine-infested waters to reach global markets.
There are nearly 100 ships stranded in northern and western Black Sea ports, but not all of them will be able to transport Ukrainian grain to global markets, said John Stubert, director of environment and trade at the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS).
“who are they [ships]Stubert told Al Jazeera from London, where ICS is headquartered.
“How we do our crew crew remains a question that needs to be answered,” he added.
Blocking shipments from two of the world’s largest grain exporters has contributed to higher prices, which have made food imports prohibitively expensive for some of the world’s poorest countries.
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