Ukraine reports gains in counteroffensive as commander blasts "complaints"
Bakhmut, Ukraine - Ukraine on Monday reported making gains in the south and east over the past week in difficult fighting to dislodge Moscow's heavily entrenched forces.
Kyiv's troops, which have faced intense resistance in their counteroffensive launched last month, have urged Western allies for more military support.
"Last week was difficult on the frontline. But we are making progress," Ukrainian President Volodymyr said. "We are moving forward, step by step!"
Deputy Defense Minister Ganna Malyar noted that Ukrainian forces over the past week recaptured four square miles in the east and 10 square miles in the south.
Ukraine's forces have taken back over 60 square miles in the south since the start of the counteroffensive, Malyar said.
Kyiv's troops have come up against heavily entrenched Russian defensive positions both along the southern and eastern fronts.
Malyar said Ukrainian troops were fighting "fierce" battles around the eastern flashpoint city of Bakhmut. Russian forces were also on the offensive, and in recent days launched new assaults towards Svatove, in the eastern Lugansk region.
On Sunday, Malyar said Russia was advancing near Svatove, as well as near Avdiivka, Mariinka, and Lyman.
"The situation is quite complicated," she said.
Russian forces "not affected" by Wagner rebellion
"Ukraine did not reach its goals in any of the sectors," Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, claiming that nearly all Leopard tanks provided by Poland and Portugal had been destroyed.
Shoigu and the conventional army faced a serious challenge last month when Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the Wagner mercenary group, led his forces in a rebellion against Moscow's top military brass.
In his first comments addressing the short-lived mutiny, Shoigu said Monday the rebellion "did not affect the operations of the troops."
"The plans failed primarily because the personnel of the armed forces showed loyalty to their oath and military duty," he said.
Following the rebellion, the Kremlin gave Wagner fighters the choice of signing contracts with the Russian defence ministry, returning to civilian life or going into exile in Moscow-allied Belarus.
Russia however said there was no need for further mobilization to replace the Wagner troops that left the battlefield.
Kyiv is fighting to try to recapture its territories in the east and south, including the Crimea peninsula, annexed by Russia in 2014.
In Crimea, the Russian security service (FSB) said Monday it had foiled an attempt on the life of the Moscow-installed head of Crimea, Sergei Aksyonov.
The FSB said it had detained a suspect -- "a Russian national born in 1988 who had been recruited by officers of Ukraine's Security Service (SBU)".
It added that the suspect was held while "removing the explosive device from its hiding place".
Ukrainian military commander slams complaints about slow pace
Meanwhile, Ukrainian officials have expressed frustration at the slow deliveries of weapons promised by the West.
Ukraine's military commander-in-chief Valery Zaluzhny told the Washington Post it "pisses me off" that some in the West complain about the slow start and progress to the long-awaited push against Russian occupying forces.
He also decried having only a fraction of the artillery shells that Russia is firing.
"A lot of people die every day – a lot. Just because no decision has been made yet," Zaluzhny said.
Ukrainian presidential chief of staff Andriy Yermak said a drone attack on a residential building in Sumy, eastern Ukraine, killed one on Monday.
Late Sunday freedom of expression group PEN also said a Ukrainian writer wounded in a Russian missile strike on a restaurant last week had died.
Victoria Amelina (37) was injured when a Russian missile destroyed the Ria Pizza restaurant in the eastern city of Kramatorsk on Tuesday, killing 12 people, including children, and wounding dozens.
Cover photo: REUTERS