Ukraine says it controls village that Russia said it had captured

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Russia said on Monday its forces had taken control of Novomykhailivka in eastern Ukraine- the second advance Moscow has announced in two days - but Ukraine’s military fighting there said it was still in control of the village.

Reuters could not independently verify whether Novomykhailivka, some 40 km (25 miles) southwest of the Ukrainian city of Donetsk, is in Ukrainian or Russian hands. Heavy battles in the area have been going on for weeks.

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Russia’s defense ministry said in a statement that its Southern group of forces had fully taken Novomykhailivka “and improved the tactical situation along the front line”.

But Yevhen Shmataliuk, commander of Ukraine’s 79th amphibious assault brigade, which has been fighting on the Donetsk frontline, said his troops hold 15 percent to 20 percent of the village, while the rest of it is under Ukraine’s “fire control.”

“We are not going to move anywhere but forward,” Shmataliuk said in an interview with Ukraine’s public broadcaster and published on the brigade’s Facebook page.

On Sunday Russia said it had taken control of the settlement of Bohdanivka, further to the north. Bohdanivka lies northeast of Chasiv Yar, a strategic town located on high ground which, if captured, could open up the way for Russia to advance on several “fortress cities” in eastern Ukraine.

The Russian gains, if confirmed, underline the urgency for Ukraine of taking delivery of more than $60 billion in new US military aid that the House of Representatives approved on Saturday. It is expected to be approved this week by the Senate and signed into law by President Joe Biden.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged Washington on Sunday to quickly turn the bill into law and proceed with the actual transfer of weapons, saying long-range arms and air defence systems were top priorities.

The Kremlin said on Monday that the new US aid would not change the situation on the frontlines.

The influx of weapons should improve Kyiv’s chances of averting a major Russian breakthrough in the east, military analysts say, but Kyiv still faces manpower shortages on the battlefield.

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