The commander of Ukrainian ground forces, General Oleksandr Syrskyi, claims that three Russian brigades no longer have combat capabilities after fighting in the east around Bakhmut.

The commander of Ukraine’s ground forces said his troops had routed three of Russia’s best brigades fighting on the front lines in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region.

Gen. Oleksandr Syrskyi also said Monday that the recapture of two eastern Ukrainian villages in recent days – Klishchiivka and Andriivka, both located on high ground near the destroyed city of Bakhmut – was a major breakthrough.

“During the fighting in the Bakhmut sector, some of the enemy’s best units were destroyed and completely lost their combat effectiveness,” Syrskyi said in a statement.

The Russian units were the 72nd Motorized Rifle Brigade and the 31st and 83rd Air Assault Brigades.

Syrskyi welcomed the recapture of Klishchyivka and Andriivka, saying Ukrainian forces continued their advance and had some success in breaking through Russian defensive lines, although Moscow forces counterattacked from several directions to regain their lost positions.

“These seemingly small settlements were important elements of the enemy defense line stretching from Bakhmut to Horlivka,” Syrskyi said on the messaging app Telegram, referring to a town about 40 km (25 miles) from Bakhmut.

“As a result of the successful actions of our troops, the enemy’s defensive line was broken, which he tried to close by throwing all available reserves into the battle,” he said.

Ukrainian military spokesman Ilia Yevlash also underscored the tactical importance of Klishchyivka, saying in televised comments that the recapture exposed Bakhmut’s southern flank and was “a favorable springboard for further progress.”

Russian forces captured the city of Bakhmut in May, but Ukrainian forces continued to wage a bitter urban war that became one of the bloodiest and longest battles since Russia invaded last year.

Russia denied on Saturday that it had lost control of Andriivka and recent Ukrainian claims of battlefield gains against Russian forces could not be independently verified.

Washington-based think tank The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said on Monday that Ukraine’s advances south of Bakhmut and claims of destruction of the combat capabilities of Russia’s three brigades could indicate significant losses for Moscow.

“This VDV [Russian airborne] Elements were involved in counterattacks and attempted to push back Ukrainian advances around Bakhmut… and likely suffered heavy casualties,” the ISW said.

The ISW also said that Russian forces south of Bakhmut were “likely battle-weary due to recent efforts to hold Klishchyivka and Andriivka.”

Ukraine has now recaptured about 50 square kilometers (more than 19 square miles) of land around Bakhmut since the start of its long-awaited counteroffensive in June, the slow progress of which was criticized by some of Kiev’s Western supporters.

Ukraine officials acknowledged the slow pace of their advance but pointed to the strength of Russia’s defenses, including trenches and vast minefields, that Moscow had to prepare for months as Kiev waited for the delivery of promised tanks from Western allies.

Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar, one of six deputy defense ministers ousted on Monday as part of a reshuffle under the new defense minister, said earlier that Ukrainian forces covered 51 square kilometers (19 square miles) near Bakhmut and more than 260 square kilometers (100 square miles) of land in the south of the country during the counteroffensive.

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