A residential suburb of Kharkiv after a Russian strike this week (SERGEY BOBOK)

A residential suburb of Kharkiv after a Russian strike this week (SERGEY BOBOK)

AFP:  Russia said Wednesday that its forces had retaken Klishchiivka, one of a handful of villages on the eastern front that Ukraine took control of in a lacklustre counteroffensive last summer.

Russian forces in recent weeks have made their biggest territorial gains in the war-battered east in the last 18 months as Ukraine waits for desperately needed US and European weapon supplies.

Klishchiivka lies in the industrial Donetsk territory in the east that the Kremlin claimed to have annexed in late 2022 even as its forces were struggling at great cost to gain ground there.

The Ukrainian army has come under intense pressure in the past two weeks, fighting off a new ground offensive in the Kharkiv region and further stretching their critically short supplies of soldiers and ammunition.

"Units of the Southern grouping of troops liberated the village of Klishchiivka" in the Donetsk region, the Russian defence ministry said.

Russian troops first captured Klishchiivka in January 2023, but Ukraine clawed it back in September at the end of its mostly unsuccessful counteroffensive.

Klishchiivka is just south of the destroyed front-line city of Bakhmut, now held by Russia. Before the conflict it had a population of about 500 people.

Ukraine did not immediately comment on the Russian claims but President Volodymyr Zelensky warned in an evening address Tuesday that fighting on the front line was "extremely difficult".

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