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Ukraine war latest: Russian forces in Bakhmut 'semi-encircled,' says Ukrainian military commander

by Alexander Khrebet and The Kyiv Independent news desk July 21, 2023 12:30 AM 5 min read
Ukrainian forces fire a 152 mm towed gun-howitzer D-20 at Russian positions near Bakhmut on July 20, 2023. (Photo: AFP via Getty Images)
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Key developments on July 20:

  • Syrskyi: Russian forces in Bakhmut 'semi-encircled'
  • Washington Post: Ukraine deploys US-provided cluster munitions
  • Defense Ministry: Vessels heading to Russia-controlled Black Sea ports to be considered military targets
  • UK Defense Ministry: Russia's Black Sea blockade at risk from Ukrainian surface drones, missiles
  • Russian strike against Mykolaiv injures 19
  • EU sanctions Iran to prevent drone components export.

Land Forces Commander, Colonel General Oleksandr Syrskyi, told the BBC on July 20 that Russian forces in Bakhmut have been semi-encircled as Ukraine created conditions to reclaim the city.

"At the moment, the deployment of Russian troops resembles an arch, concentrated in Bakhmut. And they are under semi-encirclement. Well, it's impossible not to take advantage of that," said Syrskyi.

According to the commander, recapturing Bakhmut would have a significant strategic value, as the city serves as a transport hub, allowing Russian forces further advances.

Syrsky hasn’t provided the timeframe for reclaiming Bakhmut, but vowed it will be attempted as soon as possible.

The Bakhmut area is among others where Ukrainian forces are conducting counteroffensive operations. Ukrainian troops have been advancing along the northern and southern flanks of the city, which has been occupied since late May.

Meanwhile, the Washington Post reported on July 20, citing Ukrainian officials, that Ukrainian forces are already using U.S.-provided cluster munitions on the battlefield against Russian troops.

Cluster munitions were used against Russian trenches near Bakhmut, according to the report.

The U.S. announced the delivery of these munitions to Ukraine on July 7, with Ukrainian military confirming it received the first shipments on July 13.

‘It’s a lottery’: How Ukraine’s assault brigade counterattacks near Bakhmut
Editor’s note: The Kyiv Independent spent a day with soldiers from the 80th Separate Assault Brigade in June, and the story is comprised of interviews with them about their experience near Bakhmut. The soldiers are identified by their names or callsigns, and their deployment locations are not reveal…

Defense Ministry says it considers ships heading to Russian, Russian-occupied Black Sea ports military targets

The Defense Ministry said on July 20 that starting from midnight on July 21, any vessels heading to Russian or Russian-occupied ports on the Black Sea will be treated as carrying military cargo "with all associated risks."

Russia withdrew from the Black Sea Grain deal on July 17 and later announced that all vessels heading to Ukrainian ports will be regarded as "potential carriers of military cargo" and thus legitimate military targets.

The Ukrainian Defense Ministry said the Kremlin has turned the Black Sea into a danger zone threatening civilian vessels and trade routes and attacking civilian infrastructure in cities.

"The Russian Federation has once again brutally violated the universal right to free navigation for the whole world and is deliberately undermining food security, condemning millions of people to starvation," the ministry said.

Earlier in the day, the U.K. Defense Ministry said in its daily intelligence update that the Russian Black Sea Fleet will likely be blocking the trade routes, but the maritime blockade would be at risk of attacks by Ukrainian surface drones and cruise missiles.

"The fate of the cruiser Moskva proves that the Defense Forces of Ukraine have the necessary means to repel Russian aggression at sea," the U.K. Defense Ministry said.

U.S. National Security Council spokesperson Adam Hodge said on July 19 that the Kremlin considers attacking civilian vessels on the Black Sea in order to blame Ukraine.

Russia's withdrawal from the grain deal sparked international condemnation and fears of rising food prices. The agreement, brokered by Turkey and the U.N. in July 2022, allowed Ukraine to export its agricultural products during the ongoing full-scale Russian invasion.

Moscow is responsible for a major global food supply crisis, the European Union's foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, said on July 20.

Following the termination of the agreement, Russia launched three consecutive air strikes over the past three days against Odesa, Ukraine’s main Black Sea port.

Ukrainian representative Yevhenii Tsymbaliuk told the OSCE Permanent Council on July 20 that Russian attacks on Ukraine's Black Sea Coast hit ports that contain more than 1 million tons of food.

Most Ukrainian grain exports go to countries in Africa and Asia.

Black Sea grain deal collapses as Russia pulls from agreement
Russia announced on July 17 that it is pulling out of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, critical for ensuring global food security, effectively collapsing the deal.

EU sanctions Iran to prevent drone components export

The Council of the European Union sanctioned Iran on July 20 for supporting Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine.

The sanctions banned the export of components to Iran, which are used in the construction of attack drones. The EU also imposed asset freezing and travel ban on six Iranian nationals involved in supporting the Russian military.  

The sanctions come after months of reports from the Ukrainian authorities pointing to the Western components in Iranian-made drones Russia uses to attack Ukraine.

Russia started to assemble Shakhed kamikaze drones with Iran-supplied components on its soil, a recent joint investigation by Russian investigative outlets, Protokol and RZVRT, revealed.

In addition, the EU prolonged sanctions against Russia, targeting specific sectors of the Russian economy by six months, until Jan. 31.

These sanctions were initially imposed in 2014 in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine and were further expanded in February 2022 due to the beginning of Russia's full-scale war.

Investigation: EU inability to ramp up production behind acute ammunition shortages in Ukraine
Editor’s note: This investigation is a collaboration between the Kyiv Independent and partners, including The Investigative Desk, Lighthouse Reports, and Follow the Money (Netherlands), El Diario (Spain), Delfi (Estonia), and Libération (France). Key findings: * Over a year into Russia’s full-sca…

Russian strike against Mykolaiv injures 19, including 5 children

The Russian overnight attack against the southern city of Mykolaiv injured 19 civilians, including five children, Mykolaiv Oblast Governor Vitalii Kim reported on July 20.

Two people, including a child, have been hospitalized.

Russian forces attacked the city around 3 a.m. local time, damaging residential buildings, according to the report.

Mykolaiv Oblast has been frequently targeted by Russian strikes, mainly with Shakhed loitering munitions and Kalibr cruise missiles.

UPROOTED. An investigation into Russia’s abduction of Ukrainian children
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