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Key developments on July 25:
- Ukraine makes small gains south of Bakhmut
- US reportedly to provide Ukraine artillery rounds, air defense missiles in $400 million military package
- Ukrainian military confirms using US-provided cluster munitions near Bakhmut
- Russia may attack civilian vessels in Black Sea, UK foreign secretary warns
- Ukraine to continue attacks on Crimea, Kerch bridge, says Defense minister
- UN rights chief rejects Russia's claims of Ukraine hitting POW prison
Russian forces retreated from their positions in the village of Andriivka south of Bakhmut following a Ukrainian offensive around the city in Donetsk Oblast, General Staff of Ukraine's Armed Forces spokesperson Andrii Kovalov reported on July 25.
Ukrainian forces are conducting the counteroffensive in at least three directions in the eastern Donetsk and southern Zaporizhzhia oblasts. They are gradually advancing on the Bakhmut southern flank in Donetsk Oblast and in the Berdiansk and Melitopol directions in the south, the Institute for the Study of War reported in its latest update.
Eastern Military Command spokesperson Serhii Cherevatyi said on July 25 that Ukrainian forces effectively deployed the “entire line of armaments provided,” including the U.S.-provided cluster munitions, in the Bakhmut sector. Russian troops have been “semi-encircled” in Bakhmut, Land Forces Commander Oleksandr Syrskyi said back on July 20.
Ukrainian troops have also just gained a new position in the Berdiansk direction, near the village of Staromaiorske in Donetsk Oblast, according to the General Staff.
Despite achieving some partial gains since its start in early June, Ukraine's counteroffensive progress has been slower than anticipated, as noted by both Western observers and Ukrainian officials.
Meanwhile, Russian troops attempted assaults in the Kupiansk, Lyman, Bakhmut, Adviivka, and Marinka directions with airstrikes and shelling, the General Staff reported in its evening update on July 25.
Defense minister: Ukraine to continue attacks on Crimea, Kerch bridge
Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov told CNN in an interview published on July 25 that Ukrainian forces would continue attacks on Russian forces and military facilities in occupied Crimea, as well as on the bridge over the Kerch Strait.
The bridge, a key logistic route for the Russian forces in the south of Ukraine, connects Crimea with Russia.
“It’s normal tactics to ruin the logistic lines of your enemy to stop the options to get more ammunition, to get more fuel, to get more food, etcetera. That’s why we will use these tactics against them,” said Reznikov.
The announcement came a day after reported attacks on Russian ammunition depots and military warehouses in Crimea and the July 17 explosions on the Kerch bridge.
The explosions forced Russia to halt railway and truck traffic over the bridge due to the damage caused.
“All these targets are official targets because it will reduce their capacity to fight against us (and) will help to save the lives of Ukrainians,” Reznikov told CNN.
Ukrainian officials repeatedly said that the Crimea and Kerch bridge are legitimate military targets.
Russia extended bridge repairs until the end of 2023 following attacks in October 2022 and July 2023. The Southern Military Command spokesperson told Kyiv24 on July 25 that the bridge may never regain its former capacity, indicating substantial damage.
Ukraine neither denied involvement nor took responsibility for the explosions that damaged the bridge.
The Armed Forces of Ukraine's Strategic Command has confirmed destroying a Russian oil depot and military warehouses in Crimea earlier in July.
UK foreign secretary warns Russia may attack civilian vessels in Black Sea
The UK believes that Russia may target civilian vessels in the Black Sea, escalating its campaign to destroy Ukraine’s food exports, U.K. Foreign Secretary James Cleverly tweeted on July 25.
"We will highlight this unconscionable behavior at the U.N. Security Council. Russia should stop holding global food supplies hostage and return to the deal," Cleverly said.
The announcement came after the U.S. warned on July 19 that Russia is considering attacking civilian vessels in the Black Sea to blame Ukraine.
Russian forces laid additional mines in the Black Sea close to a Ukrainian port, the U.K.’s U.N. envoy Barbara Woodward said on July 25, as cited by Reuters.
After withdrawing from the grain deal on July 17, Russia announced that vessels heading toward Ukrainian seaports will be considered military cargo, thus a target.
The grain deal, brokered by the UN and Turkey, allowed Ukraine to export its grain through the Black Sea after Russia blocked or occupied Ukrainian seaports amid the full-scale invasion.
Following the deal's collapse, Russian forces attacked Ukrainian agricultural infrastructure, ports, grain storage, and UNESCO heritage sites in Odesa Oblast with kamikaze drones and missiles designed to destroy aircraft carriers.
On July 24, Russia used attack drones to strike port infrastructure on the Danube River, destroying grain storage just 200 meters from the border with Romania, a NATO member state.
Most of the Ukrainian grain is exported to Africa and Asia.
UN rights chief dismisses Russia’s claims of HIMARS attack on prison with POWs
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk rejected on July 25 Russia's claims that the explosion that killed 50 Ukrainian prisoners of war in the Olenivka prison last year was a Ukrainian attack using High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS).
"While the precise circumstances of the incident on the night of July 28-29, 2022 remain unclear, the information available and our analysis enable the Office to conclude that it was not caused by a HIMARS rocket," Turk said.
Ukrainian authorities believe that Russia was behind the explosion at the prison where it kept captive Ukrainian soldiers, including those from the Azov Regiment, taken captive after the siege of Mariupol.
Aid to Ukraine
Meanwhile, the U.S. is planning to send Ukraine ammunition for HIMARS, howitzers, National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems (NASAMS), Stinger surface-to-air missiles, and Javelin anti-tank missiles among others, the Associated Press reported on July 25, citing unnamed U.S. officials.
Amid the Russian full-scale invasion, the U.S. provided Ukraine with over $41 billion in military aid since February 24, 2022.
In addition, the EU sent $1.65 billion (1.5 billion euros) in aid to Ukraine to keep “the state running and repair infrastructure,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on July 25.
This is the sixth monthly tranche under the macro-financial assistance package totaling $19.9 billion (18 billion euros).
Von der Leyen announced plans in mid-June to mobilize up to 50 billion euros for Ukraine between 2024 and 2027 to implement reforms on the rule of law and address corruption.