By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — Russian forces are regrouping and sending in reinforcements in preparation of resuming their offensive in the east of Ukraine, General Oleksandr Syrskiy, commander of Ukraine’s ground forces, said on August 25.
“After a month of fierce fighting and significant losses in the Kupyansk and Lyman directions, the enemy is regrouping its forces and capabilities, while transferring newly formed brigades and divisions from the territory of the Russian Federation,” Syrskiy wrote on Telegram.
Even while conducting its preparations, Russian troops “continue to exert a powerful fire influence from artillery and mortars” and are “actively using aviation” in their attacks, Syrskiy said, adding that Ukrainian forces are “taking all measures to strengthen our defense in threatened areas and move forward where possible.”
“The operational situation in the eastern direction remains tense,” he added.
Syrskiy’s comments come after Russia said it had thwarted a massive wave of drone attacks on occupied Crimea and a missile strike on Kaluga as Ukraine’s military reported deadly air and drone strikes on its regions.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said on August 25 in a statement that its air defenses neutralized a total of 73 drones over the past 24 hours, 42 of them over Crimea.
“Seventy-three Ukrainian unmanned aerial vehicles have been either shot down or jammed by electronic means over the past day,” the ministry said.
The Moscow-appointed head of Sevastopol region in Crimea, Mikhail Razvozhayev, saidseveral drones had been destroyed over the sea off Crimea’s Cape Khersones.
The Russian ministry also said a Ukrainian missile was downed in Kaluga, a region just southwest of Moscow, while Russian Telegram channels reported blasts in the sky above the Kaluga, Tula, and Moscow regions, likely caused by antiaircraft fire.
Telegram channel Baza reported that the missile was shot down near the Shaikovka military airfield in Kaluga region, some 300 kilometers southwest of Moscow.
Two major Moscow airports, Vnukovo and Domodedovo, temporarily ceased operations, Russian TASS news agency reported.
There we no immediate reports of casualties or damages.
Moscow and its surrounding have been targeted frequently by drone attacks in recent weeks.
“During the past 24 hours, the enemy launched seven missile and 47 air strikes…on the positions of our troops and on populated areas,” the military said in its daily report, adding, “Unfortunately, there are dead and wounded among the civilian population.”
The military did not provide further details about the targets of the Russian strikes or the victims, saying that incoming information is “currently being clarified.”
Ukraine’s air defense separately reported that it had shot down four Russian cruise missiles above the Odesa region that had been launched from the Sea of Azov.
On the battlefields in eastern Ukraine, heavy fighting continued amid a seesaw of offensive and defensive actions by both sides.
Ukrainian forces are conducting offensive operations in the direction of the strategic southern city of Melitopol and in the area of Bakhmut in Donetsk, the General Staff said on August 25.
In the Kupyansk sector of the eastern Kharkiv region and in Avdiyivka in Donetsk, Kyiv’s troops have been repelling successive Russian attempts to break the front line and advance to the west.
At least one civilian was wounded on August 25 in the Russian shelling of the village of Podoli in Kharkiv, Ukrainian authorities said.
The General Staff said its troops achieved some successes over the past 24 hours on the Orichiv-Tokmak axis toward Melitopol — the same sector where it had liberated the village of Robotyne earlier in the week.
Around Bakhmut, the scene of some of the longest and fiercest battles this year, Ukrainian forces are on the offensive south of the city, it said.
Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar said late on August 24 that the situation along the whole eastern front is “tense and very dynamic.”
The claims could not immediately be verified.
Finland on August 25 announced the 18th package of military aid for Ukraine worth 94 million euros ($102 million), bringing the total Finnish aid for Kyiv to about 1.3 billion euros ($1.41 billion).
“The support of Finland and our allies to Ukraine remains unwavering,” the Finnish government said in a statement.
“The core issue in terms of the future security order in Europe and in Finland is to be able to curb Russia’s aggression against Ukraine,” the statement quoted Finnish Defense Minister Antti Hakkanen as saying.
Meanwhile, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in his nightly video address on August 25 urged the country’s allies to speed up delivery of promised F-16 fighter jets to Kyiv’s forces.
“Our goal is to get closer to the time when F-16s will help us keep Russian terrorists away. As fast as possible,” he said.
Reports out of the Netherlands, Denmark, and Norway indicate that those NATO nations will be sending an undisclosed number of F-16 jets to Ukraine, although the date of arrival remains uncertain.
On August 24, the United States said it would begin training Ukrainian pilots on F-16 warplanes in October, joining a Western coalition that is helping to prepare Kyiv’s fliers on the sophisticated combat aircraft to join the fight against the Russian invasion.