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Russia Says 2 Commanders Killed in Fighting in Eastern Ukraine

Two senior Russian military officers have been killed in eastern Ukraine, Moscow’s Ministry of Defense said on Sunday, as Kyiv pledged its long-awaited counteroffensive will liberate occupied areas of Ukraine.

Russian officials claimed in a statement issued on Sunday that they were repelling Ukrainian attacks around the contested town of Bakhmut. But they conceded that top army leaders had been among the casualties in their own ranks.

“The commander of the 4th motorized rifle brigade, Colonel Vyacheslav Makarov, personally led the battle from the front,” the ministry said. “While repulsing of a third attack, the brigade commander was seriously wounded and died during the evacuation from the battlefield.”

In addition, the deputy commander of the army corps, Colonel Yevgeny Brovko, was also killed, the ministry said.

At a summit in Berlin Sunday morning, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that his forces are laying the groundwork for a major counteroffensive. However, he denied a spate of recent claims that Kyiv intends to strike Russian troops deep inside the neighboring country.

“We have neither the time nor the strength [to attack Russian soil],” he said, “and we don’t have weapons to spare with which we could do this.”

“We are preparing a counterattack for the illegally occupied areas based on our constitutionally-defined legitimate borders, which are recognized internationally,” the Ukrainian leader added.

Ukraine says it has made a spate of territorial gains in recent days around Bakhmut, which has seen fierce fighting as part of a weeks-long deadlock between the two sides.

The embattled town has also been the setting for a worsening dispute between the Russian factions tasked with fighting Moscow’s war. Yevgeny Prigozhin, a prominent oligarch who heads the Wagner Group mercenary outfit, has hit out at Russian military chiefs in a series of increasingly belligerent videos, claiming that they are failing to deliver ammunition to his fighters on the front line and that top generals are trying to “deceive” President Vladimir Putin about the situation on the ground.

While Russian officials insisted that troop movements around Bakhmut amounted to nothing more than a strategic repositioning, an irate Prigozhin said that, in reality, the shifting front line “unfortunately is called a rout and not a regrouping.”