Russia says 'repelled' several Ukrainian attacks

MOSCOW, Russia - The Russian army on Friday said it had repelled several attacks on the southern Ukrainian front, where fighting sharply intensified this week amid expectations of a major Kyiv offensive. 

The statement came after Russian war correspondents had reported "active combat" in the southern Zaporizhzhia region. 

"Over the past day, the armed forces of Ukraine continued attempts to conduct offensive operations in the South-Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia directions," the Russian army said. 

It said they were "decisively" pushed back by Russian troops and planes. 

This handout SkySat image taken by Planet Labs PBC on June 4, 2023 and released on June 6, 2023, shows Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Enerhodar, Europe's largest atomic facility. An attack on a major Russian-held dam in southern Ukraine on June 6, 2023 unleashed a torrent of water that flooded two dozen villages and forced the evacuation of 17,000 people, sparking fears of a humanitarian disaster. The Soviet-era dam, built in the 1950s, sits on the Dnipro River, which provides cooling water for the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant some 150 kilometres (90 miles) away. The Ukrainian nuclear operator, Energoatom, said the water level of the Kakhovka reservoir was "rapidly decreasing, which is an additional threat to the temporarily occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.

Handout / 2023 Planet Labs PBC / AFP

The Russian army it had repelled four attacks "carried out by forces of up to two battalion tactical groups, reinforced with tanks" near the village of Levadnoye in the Zaporizhzhia region and in Novosleka village in the Donetsk region. 

The other two attacks were near the Novodanilovka and Malaya Tokmachka in Zaporizhzhia.  

There are expectations of a major Ukrainian offensive, with some analysts saying it has already begun. 

"At the moment, active combat is ongoing in the region between Orekhovo and Tokmak," Vladimir Rogov, an official with Russian occupation authorities, wrote on the Telegram messaging service, referring to a locality known in Ukrainian as Orikhiv.

Alexander Sladkov, a Russian war correspondent, wrote on Telegram of "intense fighting" in the area. 

"The enemy is undertaking incredible efforts, attacks. In vain. Our forces are holding on. The front line is stable," he wrote. 

This could not be independently verified.

The Ukrainian army meanwhile said only "the adversary remains on the defensive" in Zaporizhzhia.

It said it destroyed four missiles and 10 drones, out of some 20 that Russia had fired at "military installations and critical infrastructure".