UKRAINE UPDATE: 15 AUGUST 2022
First UN wheat cargo sets sail for Ethiopia; forces focus on counteroffensive in southern Kherson
Brave Commander, the first vessel chartered by the UN’s World Food Programme since the reopening of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports under a safe-transit agreement, has departed with a 23,000-tonne cargo of wheat for famine-struck Ethiopia.
Ukraine’s military is focusing on a counteroffensive in the southern Kherson region. In recent days, Kyiv’s forces have attempted to render inoperable key bridges across the Dnipro River that Russian troops used to transport supplies. The UK said Moscow’s forces are now probably reliant on hazardous pontoon ferry crossings across the wide river for ground resupplies.
The Ukraine army’s southern operational command said on Facebook that it had destroyed Russian ammunition depots in Nova Kakhovka, upriver from Kherson, and Muzikivka. The strikes couldn’t be verified.
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On the ground
Explosions around Nova Kavhovka in the Kherson region were suspected to be the detonation of Russian ammunition reported by the Ukrainian army’s southern command. Fierce fighting continued in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region. The Defence Ministry said particularly heavy fighting had focused on Pisky, a village near Donetsk Airport. The area has been on the front line of the Donbas line of command since 2014, it said. Around Slovyansk, in Donetsk, Russian forces tried to break through defences in the Dolyna area, but were repelled. Russian reconnaissance around Pytomnyk in the north was forced to retreat after suffering losses, according to a statement from the ministry on its Facebook page.
Ukraine says grain vessel has departed for Ethiopia
The first grain freighter chartered by the UN’s World Food Programme since the reopening of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports departed from Pivdennyi on Sunday for Ethiopia, Odesa regional military governor Maksym Marchenko said on Telegram.
The Brave Commander arrived in port on Friday and was scheduled to load 23,000 tonnes of wheat for a part of Africa on the verge of famine.
“This is the first among many steps, but a very big one we need to make to tackle the global food crisis,” Marchenko said on his Telegram channel.
Russia blames Kyiv, West for delaying UN mission to atomic plant
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Western nations and Ukraine’s leaders were behind delays in allowing UN inspectors to visit the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Europe’s largest. The facility has come under intermittent shelling this month, with Kyiv and Moscow trading blame.
“We are fighting for” International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA) representatives to visit the plant, Zakharova said on Sunday, according to the state-run Tass news service.
A Russian diplomat said a mission to Zaporizhzhia led by IAEA chief Rafael Grossi couldn’t take place before the “end of August or early September,” according to an interview with the Izvestia newspaper published on Friday.
Ukraine says it struck Antonivskyi Bridge again
Ukraine again struck the Antonivskyi Bridge over the Dnipro River on Saturday night, said Natalia Humenyuk, a military spokesperson, as it pursues its goal of cutting off Russian supply routes to the Kherson region.
“It means that heavy machinery and the transportation of ammunition reserves have been extremely complicated, even disabled,” she said on local television.
Disabling bridges has become a major strategy as Ukraine gears up for a counteroffensive against Russian-occupied territories by cutting off Moscow’s supply routes. The UK has said Russian troops are now relying on pontoon crossings to get across the Dnipro. The Antonivskyi Bridge is about 1.6km long.
Germany reaches gas storage milestone ahead of plan
German gas storage facilities have reached a fill level of 75%, two weeks ahead of schedule, according to the country’s regulator. “The first-stage goal has been reached,” Klaus Mueller, president of Germany’s federal network agency, said on Twitter.
The next target is 85% by 1 October, Mueller said. German regulation stipulates that storage facilities must be at least 75% full on 1 September, rising to 85% on 1 vOctober and 95% on 1 November.
Russia has for weeks pumped natural gas through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to Germany at only about 20% of capacity. Russia’s Gazprom has cited technical reasons, while the German government considers this to be a pretext.
Grain ship Razoni arrives in Syria, Reuters reports
The merchant ship Razoni, which on 1 August was the first to sail under a safe-transit agreement for Ukraine’s grain exports, has arrived at a Syrian port, Reuters reported. Its 26,000-tonne maize cargo was earlier rejected by Lebanon.
The Sierra Leone-flagged vessel arrived in Tartus, Syria, Reuters said. It had been shown as “out of range” by the tracking website marinetraffic.com for two days.
The cargo’s initial Lebanese buyer cited a five-month delay in the delivery. The Razoni docked for a few days last week at Mersin, Turkey.
Ukraine ‘focusing on Russia’s Dnipro River communication lines’
As it plans a Kherson counteroffensive, Kyiv’s forces are focused on disrupting Russian ground lines of communication, or GLOCs, on the right bank of the Dnipro River, the Institute for the Study of War said.
“Russian forces cannot support mechanised operations at scale without a reliable GLOC,” the US-based think tank said.
If all three southern bridges across the Dnipro are out of service for a length of time, Moscow’s forces on the west bank will probably lose the ability to defend themselves against even limited Ukrainian counterattacks, ISW said.
Zelensky says troops at power plant will be ‘special’ targets
President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russian forces targeting the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, or making strikes from its territory, would draw a response from Ukraine’s military.
“Every Russian soldier who either shoots at the plant or shoots under the cover of the plant must understand that he is becoming a special target for our intelligence and secret service, for our army,” Zelensky said via his Telegram channel.
Ukraine’s Defence Ministry said on Saturday that Moscow’s troops continued shelling in the vicinity of Zaporizhzhia. Russia has blamed Ukraine for the shelling.
Ukraine urges artillery reinforcements from US
Ukrainian army commander-in-chief Valeriy Zaluzhnyi said in a Telegram post he told General Mark Milley, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, that Ukraine badly needed artillery reinforcements. During their phone call, Zaluzhnyi said he told Milley that Russia was suffering “significant” battlefield losses. DM