kyiv, Ukraine (AP) — Russia suffered heavy losses when Ukrainian forces destroyed the pontoon bridge that enemy troops were using to try to cross a river in the east, Ukrainian and British officials said in another sign of Moscow’s struggle to save a war gone wrong..
Meanwhile, the Ukrainian authorities opened the first trial for war crimes. of the conflict The accused, a captured Russian soldier, is accused of shooting dead a 62-year-old civilian in the first days of the war.
The trial began as Russia’s offensive in the Donbas, the industrial heartland of eastern Ukraine, seemed increasingly to turn into a war of attrition.
Ukraine’s airborne command released photos and videos of what it said was a damaged Russian pontoon bridge over the Siversky Donets River and several destroyed or damaged Russian military vehicles nearby.
Ukrainian news reports said troops thwarted an attempt by Russian forces to cross the river earlier this week, leaving dozens of tanks and other military vehicles damaged or abandoned. The command said its troops “drowned the Russian occupiers.”
Britain’s Defense Ministry said Russia lost “significant armored maneuver elements” from at least one battalion tactical group, as well as equipment used to deploy the makeshift floating bridge.
“Carrying out river crossings in a contested environment is a very risky move and speaks to the pressure Russian commanders are under to advance their operations in eastern Ukraine,” the ministry said in its daily intelligence update. .
In other developments, a move by Finland and potentially Sweden to join NATO was questioned when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country “does not have a favorable view” of the idea. He accused Sweden and other Scandinavian countries of supporting Kurdish militants and others Turkey considers terrorists.
Erdogan did not say outright that he would prevent the two countries from joining NATO. But the military alliance makes its decisions by consensus, meaning each of its 30 member countries has a veto over who can join.
An expansion of NATO would be a serious blow to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who went to war in what he said was an attempt to thwart the alliance’s push east. But the Ukraine invasion has sparked fears in other countries along Russia’s flank that they could be next.
With Ukraine calling for more weapons to defend against invasion, the European Union’s foreign affairs chief announced plans to give the country an additional 500 million euros ($520 million) to buy heavy weapons.
Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said that heavy weapons from the West now making their way to the front lines, including US 155mm howitzers, will take some time to turn the tide in Ukraine’s favour. He admitted that there is no quick end to the war in sight.
“We are entering a new phase of the long-term war,” Reznikov wrote in a Facebook post. “Extremely difficult weeks await us. How many will there be? No one can say for sure.”
The battle for Donbas has turned into a back-and-forth village-to-village struggle with little progress on either side and little ground gained.
The Ukrainian military chief of the Donbas’s Luhansk region said on Friday that Russian forces had opened fire 31 times in residential areas the previous day, destroying dozens of houses, especially in the villages of Hirske and Popasnianska, and a bridge in Rubizhne.
In the south, Ukrainian officials claimed another success in the Black Sea, saying their forces took out another Russian ship, though there was no confirmation from Russia and no casualties were reported.
The logistics ship Vsevolod Bobrov was badly damaged but is not believed to have sunk when it was hit while trying to deliver an anti-aircraft system to Snake Island, said Oleksiy Arestovych, a Ukrainian presidential adviser.
In April, Ukraine sank the Moskva, a guided-missile cruiser that was the flagship of the Russian Black Sea Fleet. In March she destroyed a landing ship.
Justin Crump, a former British tank commander who is now a security consultant, said Moscow’s losses have forced him to scale back his targets. He said the Russians have had to use hastily assembled units that have not trained together and are therefore less effective.
“This is not going to be fast. So we are prepared for a summer of fighting at least. I think the Russian side is very clear that this will take a long time,” she said.
Ukrainian prosecutors are investigating thousands of possible war crimes. Many of the alleged atrocities came to light last month after Moscow forces abandoned their attempt to capture kyiv and withdrew from the outskirts of the capital, revealing mass graves and streets littered with bodies.
In the first war crimes case brought to trial, Russian Sgt. Vadim Shyshimarin, 21, could face life in prison if convicted of shooting a Ukrainian man in the head through an open car window in a village in the northeastern Sumy region on February 28, four days after the invasion.
In a small courtroom in kyiv, dozens of journalists watched the start of the wartime proceedings, which will be closely watched by international observers to make sure the trial is fair.
The defendant, dressed in a blue and gray hoodie and gray sweatpants, sat in a small glass cage during the trial, which lasted about 15 minutes and is set to resume on Wednesday.
Shyshimarin was asked a series of questions, including if he understood his rights and if he wanted a jury trial. She rejected the latter.
His assigned lawyer in Ukraine, Victor Ovsyanikov, has acknowledged that the case against the soldier is strong and has not indicated what his defense will be.
Shyshimarin, a member of a tank unit that was captured by Ukrainian forces, admitted shooting the civilian in a video released by the Ukrainian Security Service, saying he was ordered to do so.
As the war rages on, teachers are trying to restore some sense of normalcy after the fighting closed Ukraine’s schools and changed the lives of millions of children.
In Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, classes are held in a metro station that has become home to many families. The children joined their teacher Valeriy Leiko around a table to learn about the art of history, with children’s drawings lining the walls.
“It helps support them mentally. Because now there is a war and many lost their homes… some people’s parents are fighting now,” Leiko said. Partly because of the lessons, she said, “they feel someone loves them.”
An older student, Anna Fedoryaka, supervised a professor’s online lectures on Ukrainian literature.
Internet connection was a problem for some, he said. And “it’s hard to concentrate when you have to do your homework with explosions by your window.”
Yesica Fisch in Bakhmut, Yuras Karmanau in Lviv, Mstyslav Chernov in Kharkiv, Jari Tanner in Helsinki, Elena Becatoros in Odesa, and other AP employees around the world contributed to this report.
Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine: https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine