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Ukraine war latest: Ukraine liberates Klishchiivka in Donetsk Oblast after months of heavy fighting

by Asami Terajima September 17, 2023 11:42 PM 7 min read
A Ukrainian soldier walks at his fighting position in the direction of Bakhmut frontline in Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine on Aug. 21, 2023. (Photo by Diego Herrera Carcedo/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
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Key developments on Sept. 17:

  • Ukraine’s military says it liberated village of Klishchiivka near Bakhmut
  • US senators: 'Not sending ATACMS to Ukraine will only prolong war’
  • UK Defense Ministry: Russia likely reinforcing defenses around Tokmak in Zaporizhzhia Oblast
  • Canada pledges nearly $25 million to bolster Ukraine's air defense

Ukraine’s military reported late on Sept. 17 that it had liberated the village of Klishchiivka in Donetsk Oblast, marking the latest success in a more than three-months-long counteroffensive on the Bakhmut axis.

General Oleksandr Syrskyi, who commands Ukraine’s Ground Forces, said on Telegram that Ukraine’s 5th Separate Assault Brigade, the 80th Air Assault Brigade, and the Liut ("Anger") National Police Assault Brigade took part in the operation to liberate Klishchiivka.

In a video shared by Liut on Facebook, a Ukrainian soldier said, “We stand strong, firm and confident, because this is our land. The enemy does not stop attempts to capture it again.”

For months, there has been heavy fighting around Klishchiivka – which fell to Russia in late January – as Ukraine attempted to retake the village.

Ukrainian soldiers with the 3rd Separate Assault Brigade, also deployed in the area, told the Kyiv Independent over July and August that advancing toward Klishchiivka is extremely difficult due to heavily mined fields and Russia’s incessant artillery fire.

Before the liberation was publicly announced on Sept. 17, Presidential Office head Andriy Yermak published a photo of Ukrainian soldiers in front of the town's church with the caption “Ukraine always takes back its own.”

Inching forward in Bakhmut counteroffensive, Ukraine’s hardened units look ahead to long, grim war
Editor’s note: Though the commanders quoted in this story are public figures, the other soldiers are identified by first names and callsigns only due to security reasons. DONETSK OBLAST — In a wide field in Donetsk Oblast, the silence of what would otherwise be a sleepy August afternoon is broken

The liberation of the village marks a significant achievement of this axis of Ukrainian offensive operations, which began in the area back in May this year before the more widely publicized counteroffensive on the southern front line.

Klishchiivka is located nine kilometers south of Bakhmut, a city almost completely destroyed by Russia’s brutal siege tactics.

Just a few days ago, the General Staff of Ukraine's Armed Forces reported that Ukrainian troops had liberated Andriivka, another small village located around three kilometers south of Klishchiivka.

Both Klishchiivka and Andriivka have been severely damaged by months of heavy fighting.

Inside Ukraine’s costly mission to grind down Russia near Bakhmut
Editor’s note: The Kyiv Independent interviewed a few dozen soldiers deployed near Bakhmut and visited their positions in late May and early June. The soldiers are identified by their first names or call signs for security reasons amid the ongoing Russian war in Ukraine. NEAR IVANIVSKE VILLAGE, Don…

US senators: 'Not sending ATACMS to Ukraine will only prolong war'

U.S. senators Tom Cotton, Roger Wicker, Susan Collins, and Lindsey Graham sent a letter to U.S. President Joe Biden urging him to send MGM-140 Army Tactical Missile Systems (ATACMS) to Ukraine.

"Additional delay will only further undermine U.S. national security interests and extend this conflict," the Republican senators' letter read, stressing that Washington can send the long-requested weapons "without any appreciable risk to its own combat capability."

"Providing ATACMS would enable Ukraine to strike key Russian logistics and communications targets as well as cruise missile and drone launch sites within Russian-occupied Ukraine.”

The senators' urgent call comes as Kyiv continues to plead for longer-range weapons, including ATACMS, to bolster its capability to strike Russian military targets in occupied territories.

ATACMS could target command posts, missile launchers, air defense systems, communication centers, and fuel warehouses deep behind the Russian defense line, and can launch attacks at any time of the day – regardless of the weather.

Ukrainian innovators want to bring life-saving robots to the battlefield
Ukrainian soldier Oleksandr Navarenko says his unit was under heavy Russian tank fire last summer in Zaporizhzhia Oblast when the idea for a life-saving robot came to him. “Why use people when you can use machines?” the 59-year-old combat engineer told the Kyiv Independent, wonderi…

Recently, emerging Western media reports citing anonymous officials have hinted that Ukraine's long quest for ATACMS will soon come to an end.

ABC News reported on Sept. 9 that two unnamed U.S. officials signaled that Washington could approve the delivery of ATACMS to Ukraine rather soon, with one of them saying that "they are coming,” although the plans could change until the official announcement.

The second official said ATACMS are "on the table" and may be part of the U.S.' upcoming security aid package, adding that it could take months before the missiles arrive in Ukraine, according to ABC News.

ATACMS can strike targets 300 kilometers (190 miles) away. While the U.K. and France have delivered long-range Storm Shadow missiles to Ukraine, which have a range of more than 250 kilometers (155 miles), the U.S. has so far not given the green light for ATACMS.

In the letter addressed to Biden, the senators said that the "Senate Armed Services Committee unanimously approved an amendment to the 2024 National Defense Authorization Act urging the Department of Defense to consider sending long-range missiles to Ukraine."

"Delay will only cost more lives and prolong the conflict," the letter reads.

The senators say that the request is urgent since there have been reports that there may be just over 30 days of fighting season left for Ukraine to wage its costly counteroffensive.

Earlier in September, Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley said that Ukraine likely has about 30 to 45 days for the counteroffensive before the weather worsens on the ground.

"We urge you to authorize the immediate shipment of ATACMS to Ukraine," the senators said.

UK Defense Ministry: Russia likely reinforcing defenses around Tokmak in Zaporizhzhia Oblast

Russian forces have likely bolstered their defenses around the occupied town of Tokmak in the southeastern oblast of Zaporizhzhia, the U.K. Defense Ministry said on Sept. 17.

According to the ministry, Russian forces have in recent days added more checkpoints, anti-tank hedgehogs, and trenches in the area, which is currently held by Russia's 58th Combined Arms Army.

The U.K. Defense Ministry said the area, located 16 kilometers from the front line and around 60 kilometers northeast of occupied Melitopol, is likely to become "a lynchpin of Russia's second main line of defenses."

"Improvements to the town’s defenses likely indicate Russia’s growing concern about Ukrainian tactical penetrations of the first main defensive line to the north," the intelligence report says.

More than three months into Ukraine's long-awaited counteroffensive, Kyiv is taking the initiative in some parts of the front line –  mainly in Zaporizhzhia Oblast and in the Bakhmut and Velyka Novosilka axes in Donetsk Oblast.

Ukraine has thus far been able to liberate more than a dozen villages since early June, with the most recent success seen in the Bakhmut area.

Though it is difficult to hold on to recaptured territories, Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar on Sept. 11 said that Ukraine has been able to liberate 4.8 square kilometers of territories in the southern part of Donetsk Oblast and in Zaporizhzhia Oblast over the past week.

Since the beginning of the counteroffensive in early June, Ukraine has liberated 256.5 square kilometers of territory on the southeastern front, according to Maliar.

Russia’s southern mistake — Surovikin lines, Gerasimov tactics
The Zaporizhzhia front has been abuzz with news of Ukrainians breaking through Russia’s first defensive line and chiseling away at a breach in the second. “They’re widening that breach at this stage to enable the flow of armored vehicles and logistics so they can exploit it,” Michael Kofman,

Canada pledges nearly $25 million to bolster Ukraine's air defense

Canadian Defense Minister Bill Blair announced on Sept. 17 that Canada will provide 33 million Canadian dollars ($24.4 million) to a U.K.-led partnership delivering much-needed air defense equipment to Ukraine.

The partnership, established in June to help Ukraine defend against Russian missile and drone attacks, was established by several countries including Denmark, the Netherlands, the U.K., and the U.S.

According to the press release, the initiative is providing Ukraine with hundreds of short- and medium-range air defense missiles and related systems.

Canada's recent contribution is part of the 500 million Canadian dollars ($369 million) in funding for military assistance to Ukraine announced by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in June.

Blair made the announcement during his visit to the Lydd Military Training Camp, where the Canadian Unifier operation, which trains Ukrainian soldiers, takes place.

“Together, Canada and the United Kingdom are standing with Ukraine, as it fights to defend itself against Russia’s illegal and unjustifiable invasion," Blair said.

"Canada commends the courage and strength of Ukrainians, and we will continue to support them with the comprehensive military aid that they need to fight and win.”

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