Moscow/Lviv, Nov 18 (EFE).- Russia has begun fortifying the neighboring Crimean peninsula, which it annexed in 2014, amid fears of a further advance by Kyiv’s forces on the southern front after Ukrainian troops liberated the northern third of the neighboring Kherson region.
Ukrainian artillery is already firing daily on Russian Army positions across the Dnieper after it withdrew from the right bank of the river, including the regional capital of Kherson.
The possibility of the Ukrainian Army crossing the Dnieper and recapturing the whole of the Kherson region is a cause of major concern for the Russian military command, as it would clear the route to Crimea.
The chief executive of the annexed peninsula, Sergey Aksyonov, announced Friday that fortifications were being built in Crimea to ensure the safety of its inhabitants.
“The measures of the Russian Armed Forces and law enforcement agencies, taken on the orders of the president (Vladimir Putin) are sufficient to make Crimeans feel safe,” Aksyonov said in a video posted on Telegram.
The Moscow-backed authorities in Kherson, annexed by Russia together with the Zaporizhzhya region and the so-called Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics on September 30, ordered the evacuation earlier this month of the civilian population from a 15-kilometer-wide strip along the left bank of the river.
The measure was ordered before Russian troops withdrew a week ago from the city of Kherson and the northern third of the region of the same name.
Ukraine is now carrying out “stabilization measures” in the liberated territory.
On Friday, the rail link between Kyiv and Kherson resumed.
The first train, which will carry 200 passengers and whose carriages were decorated by Ukrainian painters, will leave Kyiv at 10:14 pm local time and is scheduled to arrive in Kherson on Saturday at 9am.
Meanwhile, fighting has intensified on other fronts, especially in the Donbas.
Ukrainian forces launched an offensive in the direction of the locality of Chervonopopovka in the Lugansk region, but it was pushed back, the Russian Defense Ministry reported Friday.
“As a result of concentrated Russian artillery fire the enemy units stopped their advance and dispersed,” Defense spokesman General Igor Konashenkov said in his daily report.
According to the military, at least 40 Ukrainian Army personnel were killed in the action, which also lost two artillery tanks and two armored vehicles.
Near the towns of Yagodne (Kharkiv region) and Kuzemovka (Luhansk region), the Russian forces thwarted attacks by Ukrainian troops with artillery fire and heavy flamethrowers.
“More than 50 Ukrainian servicemen were killed and two tanks and five armored vehicles were destroyed,” Konashenkov said.
The general claimed that Russian troops had taken control of Opytne on the outskirts of Donetsk, the capital of the self-proclaimed eponymous people’s republic.
“The enemy is unsuccessfully trying to counterattack next to the towns of Sladkoe, Vladimirovka and Pavlovka of the Donetsk people’s republic with the purpose of stopping the advance of the Russian troops,” he said. EFE