The Ukrainians are making gains in the east and stopping Russian gas in one of the axes

Zaporizhia, Ukraine (AP) – Ukraine’s natural gas pipeline operator on Wednesday halted Russian shipments through a major hub in the country’s east, while its chief, Volodymyr Zelensky, said Kyiv’s army made small gains, pushing Russian forces out of four villages. near Kharkiv.

The pipeline operator said Russian shipments through its hub in Novopskov, in an area controlled by Moscow-backed separatists, would be cut off starting Wednesday. She added that the center deals with about a third of Russian gas that passes through Ukraine to Western Europe. Russian natural gas giant Gazprom put the figure at about a quarter.

The move is the first time that natural gas supplies have been affected by the war, which began in February. It could force Russia to divert its gas flows through Ukraine-controlled territory to reach its customers in Europe. Russian energy giant Gazprom initially said it could not, although initial flow data indicated higher rates moving through a second plant in Ukraine-controlled territory.

The operator said he stopped the flow due to interference from “occupation forces,” including what appeared to be gas withdrawals. It added that Russia may reroute shipments through Sudja, a major hub in the northern part of the country controlled by Ukraine. But Gazprom spokesman Sergei Kupriyanov said it would be “technologically impossible” and questioned the reason given for the stoppage.

Zelensky said on Tuesday that the military was gradually pushing Russian forces away from Kharkiv, while Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba expressed what appeared to be increasing confidence — and broadening goals, noting that Ukraine could go beyond simply forcing Russia back into areas it once controlled. start the invasion. weeks ago.

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Kuleba told the Financial Times that Ukraine initially believed that victory would be the withdrawal of Russian forces to positions they held before the invasion on February 24. But the focus shifted to the eastern industrial heart of Donbass after Russian forces failed to capture Kyiv early in the war.

“Now if we are strong enough on the military front, and we win the Battle of Donbass, which will be decisive for the post-war dynamics, of course our victory in this war will be to liberate the rest of us,” said Kuleba.

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Kuleba’s statement seemed to reflect political ambitions more than battlefield realities: Russian forces had advanced and controlled more Donbass than they had done before the war began. But it highlights how Ukraine hobbled a larger and better-armed Russian army, surprising many who had predicted a faster end to the conflict.

Ukraine said on Tuesday that Russian forces had fired seven missiles at Odessa the day before, hitting a commercial center and warehouse in the country’s largest port. The military said one person was killed and five wounded.

Pictures showed a burning building and wreckage – including tennis shoes – amid a heap of destruction in the Black Sea city.

One general suggested that Moscow’s goals include cutting off Ukraine’s maritime access to both the Black Sea and the Sea of ​​Azov. It would also give Russia a corridor connecting it to both Crimea, which it seized in 2014, and Transnistria, a pro-Moscow region of Moldova..

The British military said Ukraine’s targeting of Russian forces on Snake Island in the Black Sea was helping to derail Moscow’s attempts to expand its influence.

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In an intelligence update on Twitter, the British Ministry of Defense said that Russia sought to bolster its garrison on Snake Island, while “Ukraine succeeded in striking Russian air defenses and resupplying ships with Bayraktar drones.” She said Russian resupply ships had minimal protection after the Russian Navy’s withdrawal to Crimea following the loss of Moskva.

This is consistent with satellite images analyzed by the Associated Press that show the fighting there.

But the British military warned: “If Russia strengthens its position on (Snake) Island with strategic air defense and coastal defense cruise missiles, it can control the northwest Black Sea.”

Even if Russia fails to separate Ukraine from its coast—and appears to lack the forces to do so—the ongoing missile attacks on Odessa reflect their strategic importance. The Russian military has repeatedly targeted its airport, claiming to have destroyed several batches of Western weapons.

Odessa is a major gateway for grain shipmentsThe Russian blockade threatens global food supplies. It is also a cultural gem dear to Ukrainians and Russians alike. Its targeting bears symbolic significance.

To protect Odessa, Kyiv might need to move troops to the southwest, pulling them away from the eastern front in the Donbass, where they would fight near Kharkiv to push the Russians back across the border.

Kharkiv and its environs have been under continuous Russian attack since the beginning of the war. In recent weeks, horrific images have witnessed the atrocities From those battles, where charred and mutilated corpses littered one street.

The bodies of 44 civilians were found under the rubble of a five-storey building that collapsed in March of Izyum, about 120 kilometers (75 miles) from Kharkiv, Ole Sinhopov, head of the regional administration, said Tuesday.

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Russian warplanes twice fired unguided missiles on Tuesday at the Sumy region, northeast of Kharkiv, according to the Ukrainian border guard service. The district governor said the rockets hit several apartment buildings, but no one was killed. Russian mortars fell on the Chernihiv region along the Ukrainian border with Belarus, but there were no reports of casualties.

Zelensky used his nightly speech to honor Leonid Kravchuk, the first president of independent Ukraine.who died Tuesday at the age of 88.

He said Kravchuk showed his courage and knew how to make the country listen to him.

Powerful, said Zelensky, whose communication skills and decision to stay in Kyiv when it came under Russian attack helped make him a wartime leader.

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Gambrell reported from Lviv, Ukraine. Yesica Fisch in Bakhmut, David Keyton in Kyiv, Yuras Karmanau in Lviv, Mstyslav Chernov in Kharkiv, Lolita C. Baldor in Washington, Kelvin Chan in London, and AP staff worldwide contributed.

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Follow the AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine: https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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