Russia Pushes to Take Ukrainian Town Near a Vital Supply Line

Vuhledar takes its name, “gift of coal” in Ukrainian, from the mine on its outskirts. Consisting of a cluster of high-rise apartment complexes on an otherwise empty plain, the town’s elevation, exposure and tall buildings give defenders a distinct advantage.

The ill-fated November campaign was led by the Russian Pacific Fleet’s 155th Guards Naval Infantry Brigade, with reportedly disastrous results. Mediazona, an independent Russian outlet that tracks Russians killed in battle, published an interview with a Russian marine who said that more than 200 soldiers had been killed in just three days. Reports of the defeat gained enough traction that the Kremlin felt compelled to issue a statement denying them.

On Saturday, fighting continued to rage across the eastern front, a situation President Volodymyr Zelensky described as “very difficult” in his overnight address, while damage from Russia’s strikes on Ukrainian infrastructure continued to be felt. An accident at a critical power station that had been damaged by Russian attacks in the southern city of Odesa resulted in a citywide blackout, with no indication of when power would be restored.

“The situation is complex, the scale of the accident is significant, it is impossible to quickly restore power supply, in particular to critical infrastructure,” Ukraine’s prime minister, Denys Shmyhal, said in a statement. He said that generators were being raced to the city to try to reconnect critical infrastructure.

Despite the ongoing fighting, Russia and Ukraine said on Saturday that they had carried out another large-scale exchange of prisoners of war.

Andriy Yermak, the head of the Ukrainian president’s office, said that 116 Ukrainians had been released — including “defenders of Mariupol, Kherson partisans, snipers from Bakhmut vicinities, and other heroes.” The bodies of two British volunteers and a former member of the French Foreign Legion also were turned over by the Russians, he added. Russia’s Defense Ministry said in a statement that a “complicated negotiation” had led to the return of 63 Russian troops, including “sensitive category” prisoners whose release was facilitated by the United Arab Emirates.

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