Aug. 5 (UPI) — Russian forces took control in parts of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine amid greater concern over a large nuclear power plant and three more Ukrainian grain shipments on Friday.
Ilya Yemelyanov, deputy commander of the unofficial Donetsk People’s Republic “people’s militia,” said that Russian troops there have taken full control of the village of Pisky, just outside Donetsk.
Russian control of Pisky would allow Moscow to move closer to its chief goal of taking over the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine, which is comprised of the Luhansk and Donetsk provinces. Russia has stated that controlling the Donbas has been its primary goal for four months.
Pro-Russia separatists in the Donbas have been fighting in the region against Ukraine’s government since 2014 when Russia forcibly annexed Crimea.
Ukrainian officials, however, have disputed Yemelyanov’s claim about Russian control in Pisky. Officials in Kyiv said that Ukrainian troops actually repelled the Russian attacks there.
Also Friday, three more shipments of Ukrainian grain left ports in the Black Sea, United Nations officials said. The ships left with a combined 58,000 tons of corn. They were headed for Britain, Ireland and Turkey.
Grain shipments out of Ukraine had been blocked for months since Russia began the war in February and the disruption was threatening widespread food insecurity. An agreement last month paved the way for the shipments to leave Ukrainian ports in the Black Sea.
Meanwhile, Britain’s Defense Ministry said on Friday that recent Russian fighting and shelling around the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant has undermined the security of the plant’s normal operations.
“Russian forces are probably operating in the regions adjacent to the power station and have used artillery units based in these areas to target Ukrainian territory on the western bank of the Dnipro River,” the ministry, which has been tracking the war since it began, said in a tweet.
“Russian forces have probably used the wider facility area, in particular the adjacent city of Enerhodar, to rest their forces, utilizing the protected status of the nuclear power plant to reduce the risk to their equipment and personnel from overnight Ukrainian attacks.”
The military in Kyiv said that although a Russian offensive is occurring around Bakhmut, Ukraine’s defenses are holding strong.
“In the direction of Bakhmut, the enemy shelled military and civilian infrastructure near Yakovlivka, Kodema, Pokrovske, Rozdolivka, Vershyna, Bakhmut and Soledar,” the Ukrainian military’s General Staff said according to CNN.
“The enemy conducted offensive and assault actions with the aim of improving the tactical position but was unsuccessful.”