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Ukraine: Black Sea oil platforms ours again

KYIV, September 14 ------ The Ukrainian military said that it had recaptured strategic gas and oil drilling platforms from Russia in the Black Sea and claimed gains in occupied areas near Bakhmut, which was left in ruins following the longest and deadliest fighting in the war so far. The recapture of the so-called Boyko Towers platforms provides an energy source and takes back an asset that Russia seized in 2015 and used to launch helicopters, Ukraine's Defense Ministry said. "Russia has been deprived of the ability to fully control the waters of the Black Sea, and this makes Ukraine many steps closer to regaining Crimea," Moscow's Main Intelligence Directorate said.

The Russian Defense Ministry didn't immediately comment on the Ukrainian claim, but it previously reported that Russian warplanes destroyed several Ukrainian speedboats in the area. Russian military bloggers said the platforms had been uninhabited for more than a year and a Ukrainian operation to briefly land troops there last month wasn't followed by a lasting military presence and came at a heavy cost for Ukraine a claim that couldn't be independently verified.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has vowed to do all he can to bring back Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014, and has urged international allies to support the effort. Meanwhile, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock made an unannounced visit to Ukraine's capital Kyiv. She had promised support for Ukraine's path toward European Union membership while calling for additional reforms in the country. "With enormous courage and determination, Ukraine is also defending the freedom of all of us," Baerbock said in a statement released by her ministry. "In the same way that Ukraine stands up for us, it can also count on us." Baerbock also pledged continued military, economic and humanitarian support for the country and said the 22 billion euros ($23.6 million) provided so far now made Germany second to the United States in terms of total support. The top German diplomat said that while Ukraine had already made good progress reforming the judiciary and the media, it still had "some way to go" in combating corruption.

In fighting, Ukrainian forces liberated part of the town of Optyne in the eastern Donetsk region and advanced on the towns of Klishchiivka and Andriivka, south of Bakhmut, Ukraine's Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar said. Combat has persisted on the outskirts of Bakhmut since Ukrainian troops pulled out of the eastern city in May. Kyiv is trying to gain the high ground in Klishchiivka to establish artillery control over Bakhmut. In Ukraine's southern Zaporizhzhia region, Ukraine's primary counteroffensive forces were inching closer to overcoming Russian fortifications and dense minefields to take Tokmak, a critical logistics hub for Russian forces and a vital railway junction, Malyar said.

Kyiv's forces liberated Robotyne, a town in the same province, last month. The retaking of the Black Sea platforms follows the United Kingdom's Defense Ministry report of naval and air force skirmishes at sea two weeks ago. Ukraine has struck several Russian-controlled platforms in fighting during the war, and troops from both countries have occupied them periodically, the UK said in a military update. Along with drilling, the platforms can be used to land helicopters, as deployment bases and to position long-range missile systems. Pro-Russia occupation authorities seized the platforms operated by the Chernomorneftegaz company following the annexation of Crimea, which most of the world regarded as illegal.



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