Live Update: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Day 474

Russia, wary of NATO’s eastward expansion, began a military campaign in Ukraine in February 2022 after the Western-leaning Kiev government turned a deaf ear to Moscow’s calls for its neighbor to maintain its neutrality. In the middle of the mayhem, Moscow and Kiev are trying to hammer out a peaceful solution to the conflict. Follow the latest about the Russia-Ukraine conflict here:

Fourth village recaptured from Russian troops: Ukraine

Ukraine says its troops have recaptured a fourth village, Storozheve, in a cluster of settlements in the southeast, a day after reporting the first small gain of its counteroffensive.

On Sunday, it announced its forces liberated three villages – Blahodatne, Neskuchne and Makarivka – which lie on the edge of the Donetsk region next to the Zaporizhia region.

Kyiv has enforced strict operational silence to avoid compromising an operation it hopes will retake large areas of Russian-occupied land in the east and south.

Some Russian military bloggers said fighting for Makarivka was still raging but confirmed Ukrainian forces had taken Blahodatne and Neskuchne.

Water levels recede in Kherson as thousands evacuate on both sides of the Dnipro

Floodwaters are receding in areas around the Dnipro River following last week’s collapse of the Nova Kakhovka dam, according to Ukrainian officials.

Water on the river’s Ukrainian-controlled west bank has fallen by 64 centimeters (25 inches), said Oleksandr Prokudin, head of the Kherson region military administration.

But nearly 50 settlements remained inundated, he said — 32 on the Ukrainian side, and 14 on the Russian-occupied east bank.

Prokudin said more than 3,700 houses are flooded on the Ukrainian side, and evacuations continue despite Russian artillery fire.

More than 2,700 people, including 228 children, have been recued from the west bank of the river, Prokudin stated.

He added that Ukrainian forces also rescued more than 100 people stranded on the Russian-held east bank, without giving further details.

Prokudin claimed that Russian forces continued attacking throughout the rescue and evacuation operations, killing three and wounding 12.

Ukraine’s main hydropower company, Ukrhydroenergo, gave similar estimates for how much the water had fallen in Kherson — but said it’s currently not possible to measure water levels upstream.

“The evacuation of people from the flooded areas continues and the issue of supplying the population with drinking and industrial water is being resolved,” the company announced.

It added that design work had begun on an emergency dam to replace the one destroyed last week once the area is “de-occupied.”

On the Russian-occupied east bank, Vladimir Saldo, the head of the Moscow-appointed Kherson region administration, said 7,100 people had been evacuated from flooded areas.

He added water levels had receded between 1.5 and 5 meters (about 5 to 16 feet) in settlements along the river, and Russian forces were involved in the clean-up operation.

Ukrainian forces have taken another frontline village and advanced on several fronts: Defense official

Ukraine’s military has recaptured Makarivka, another frontline village in the eastern Donetsk region, and has advanced on several fronts, the country’s deputy defense minister stated Sunday.

“The settlements of Blahodatne and Makarivka were liberated,” the official, Hanna Maliar, said in an update on Telegram, referring to a second southeastern village that army officials had earlier claimed was back in Ukrainian hands.

A third, Neskuchne, has also been claimed Sunday by a Ukrainian army brigade, though Kyiv defense leaders have not yet commented on that territory. Russian military bloggers have also made unofficial reports that Neskuchne has been recaptured by Ukraine’s troops.

Maliar noted “troops continue offensive actions” around the eastern city of Bakhmut, which has long served as a flashpoint in the conflict.

Kyiv’s forces were making progress around the Berkhivka reservoir northwest of the city, and on two fronts south of the city, in one case advancing as much as 1,500 meters (around a mile), according to the deputy defense minister.

Earlier Sunday, other Ukrainian officials reported similar progress to the northwest and southwest of the city.

“Not a single position was lost on the fronts where Ukrainian troops are on the defensive,” Maliar claimed.

International Criminal Court is investigating devastating dam collapse in southern Ukraine: Zelensky

The International Criminal Court has begun an investigation into the Nova Kakhovka dam collapse, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his nightly address Sunday.

The collapse in southern Ukraine is one of the biggest industrial and ecological disasters in Europe for decades. The catastrophe has destroyed entire villages, flooded farmland, deprived tens of thousands of people of power and clean water, and caused massive environmental damage.

“In recent days, representatives of the ICC visited Kherson region,” Zelensky stated, adding, “On the very first day after the disaster, the prosecutor general sent a request to the Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC to investigate the disaster, and the work has already begun.”

“It is very important that the representatives of international justice have seen the consequences of this Russian act of terrorism with their own eyes and heard for themselves that Russian terror continues,” Zelensky continued, adding, “And it continues with the most cynical and brutal shelling of the flooded territory, the evacuation area.”

Kyiv and Moscow each blame the other for causing the dam breach, although it is unclear whether the dam was deliberately attacked at all, or if the collapse was the result of structural failure.

Russia and Ukraine have also accused one another of shelling during the effort to evacuate civilians from areas they control — sometimes with deadly consequences.

The Ukrainian president said his government is facilitating the ICC investigation by providing “full access to the affected areas, to witnesses, to all information and evidence.”

Zelensky also added his government has helped evacuate 4,000 people from flooded areas in southern Ukraine, “with the worst situation still in the temporarily occupied part of Kherson region.”

Russian state news agency TASS, meanwhile, reported that Russian Emergency Services have evacuated about 7,000 people from areas it controls.

At least 14 people have died in the flooding, Ukrainian officials said earlier Sunday.

Russia and Ukraine swapped nearly 200 prisoners of war

Russia and Ukraine exchanged almost 200 prisoners of war Sunday, according to statements from officials in Moscow and Kyiv.

Ninety-four Russian service members were returned to their homeland in the swap, the Russian Ministry of Defense said, adding the fighters would be taken to medical facilities before being allowed to go back to their families.

Ukraine’s 95 returnees included POWs captured at infamous sites from the war — Snake Island and the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol — among a number of different locations, according to Andrii Yermak, from the Ukrainian president’s office.

Some of the Ukrainian POWs had been held by the Wagner mercenary group, according to an official from Ukraine’s Coordination Headquarters on the Treatment of Prisoners of War.

Death toll rises to at least 14 in Nova Kakhovka dam collapse: Ukrainian officials

At least 14 people have died and more than 2,700 have been evacuated from flooded areas in southern Ukraine after the collapse of the Nova Kakhovka dam, Ukrainian officials reported on Sunday.

One hundred ninety children are among the evacuees, said Ihor Klymenko, Ukraine’s minister of internal affairs.

In Ukrainian-controlled flooded areas in the Kherson region, Klymenko said five people have died and 35 people are missing, including seven children. He also said one person has died in the Mykolaiv region.

In the eastern Dnipropetrovsk region, which lies upstream of the shattered dam, almost 162,000 people were without water, he added.

In Russian-occupied flooded territory, at least eight people have died in the town of Oleshky, Oleksandr Prokudin, head of the Kherson region military administration, told Ukrainian media Sunday.

Prokudin accused Russian-installed authorities of obstructing the evacuation from the east bank of the river, “by setting up checkpoints and not letting people out.” He said only people who had switched to Russian passports were being allowed through.

According to the Kherson regional military administration, shelling by Russian forces also continues despite the evacuation efforts.

“The enemy carried out 41 attacks over the past day, launching 247 shells from mortars, artillery, Grad MLRS, UAVs, and aircraft,” the administration said in a Telegram post Sunday.

Ukraine controls the west bank of the Dnipro River and the city of Kherson after its counteroffensive last year, while Russian troops remain on the east bank in the greater Kherson region.

Both Russia and Ukraine have accused one another of shelling during the effort to evacuate civilians from areas they control.

Kyiv and Moscow have also blamed one another for causing the breach in the first place, although it is unclear whether the dam was deliberately attacked, or whether the collapse was the result of structural failure.

Brigade says Ukraine has recaptured a second village in southeast

A Ukrainian brigade posted a video of soldiers celebrating in southeastern Ukraine Sunday, saying they were hailing the recapture of the village of Neskuchne from Russian forces.

The video shows ten men from Ukraine’s 129th Brigade standing around their battalion flag outside a small medical facility in the village.

“Glory to Ukraine, glory to the heroes,” they shout.

The video, which was posted to the battalion’s Facebook page, is accompanied by a statement saying the village was recaptured Saturday.

Ukraine has yet to officially claim the successful recapture of Neskuchne, which lies immediately south of the town of Velyka Novosilka on the front lines between Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk.

But Ukrainian army officials have stated that they took back the neighboring village of Blahodatne, and Russian military bloggers have been reporting since Saturday night that both villages fell to Ukrainian forces.

The reported capture of these two small territories comes a day after President Volodymyr Zelensky gave his clearest indication yet that Ukraine’s counteroffensive is underway.

Zelensky and his commanders have provided few details on the extent of the assault launched thus far.

Ukraine’s army says it has regained control of a frontline village between Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk

The Ukrainian army claims its soldiers have regained control of the village of Blahodatne, located along the front line between Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk in southeastern Ukraine.

A video released by the official Telegram channel of the Ukrainian Ground Forces showed soldiers of the 68th Brigade hoisting the Ukrainian flag from a building in the village, which lies a few kilometers south of the town of Velyka Novosilka.

The brigade launched an initial assault on the village club building and local school, an army spokesperson told Ukrainian television.

Russian forces did not surrender when offered to do so, the spokesperson said, leading to what he called a “clean up” of the club building. Six Russians were captured as Ukraine took control of the village.

The army’s claim seems to align with unofficial snippets published by Russian journalists and propagandists this weekend, which have suggested Kyiv’s forces are making some gains in southeastern Ukraine.

The Rybar Telegram channel — one in a network of Russian pro-war military blogs that publish updates on Moscow’s invasion — reported Ukrainian forces had regained control of two villages south of Velyka Novosilka “almost without a fight.”

Rybar named Blahodatne, the town claimed by Ukraine’s army, as one of those two villages. The other was nearby Neskuchne.

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