Russia has denied Ukraine’s claims that the village of Andriivka had been liberated, saying its troops were still fighting for control of the destroyed village.

In its daily bulletin on Saturday, Moscow’s defense ministry said: “The enemy... continues to carry out assaults... trying in vain to dislodge Russian troops in the localities of Andriivka and Klishchiivka.”

The denial came a day after Kyiv announced it had recaptured the small village located around 14 kilometres (nine miles) south of Bakhmut in the Donetsk region.

Here’s what we know for certain…

Liberation

There has already been some confusion about the status of Andriivka – on Thursday, Ukraine's deputy defence minister Hanna Maliar had to backtrack on an announcement earlier that day that Kyiv had retaken the village after troops there said fighting was still going on.

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On Friday, both Kyiv and it forces on the ground confirmed the village had been liberated.

In a post on social media on Friday morning, Ukraine's General Staff said: “The defense forces... liberated Andriivka in Donetsk region, inflicted significant losses on the enemy in terms of manpower and equipment, and entrenched at the occupied frontiers.”

Ukraine's 3rd Separate Assault Brigade spearheading the fighting on the ground said it had led a "lightning operation" and "practically liquidated the whole of (Russia's) 72nd infantry brigade."

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On Ukrainian television on Friday, a spokesman for the brigade fighting in the area said the village had been “completely destroyed,” adding that “Andriivka no longer exists.”

The village

Before Russia’s full-scale invasion, Andriivka was a small village home to just a few dozen people.

Ukraine’s claims that it is now completely ruined are confirmed by recent pictures.

What is left of the village lies to the south of Russian-held Bakhmut. Ukraine’s forces are pushing around Bakhmut, and Andriivka is a tactically important village and stepping stone to the next one, the village of Klishchiivka (more on that below).

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The Russian claim

On Saturday, Russia denied Kyiv’s claims that Andriivka had been liberated, saying in a statement: “The enemy did not abandon plans to capture the city of [Bakhmut] of the Donetsk People's Republic and continued to conduct assault operations ... unsuccessfully trying to oust Russian troops from the population centres of Klishchiivka and Andriivka.”

The videos

Backing up Ukraine’s claims that its troops were in control of Andriivka, the 3rd Separate Assault Brigade posted a video on Telegram on Saturday showing Russian troops surrendering – only to be hit by what it claimed was Russian artillery. 

The dramatic footage shows several very lucky Ukrainian troops surviving an almost direct hit. One of the surrendering Russian soldiers was not so fortunate.

Another video posted by the unit showed two soldiers fighting through the ruins of Andriivka, dodging heavy gunfire and mortars in a post-apocalyptic landscape.

While the footage clearly shows Ukrainian troops still coming under fire from Russian forces, the 3rd Separate Assault Brigade as well as commander of land forces, Ukrainian General Oleksandr Syrskyi, said they show the liberation of the village.

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Tom Mutch, a journalist currently on the ground near Andriivka, told Kyiv Post: “The 3rd Brigade were very confident their mission had been accomplished. 

“They waited until everything had been confirmed by their units to celebrate the victory, and were already planning their next move to secure the last hold outs of Russian positions in and around Klishchiivka.”

Klishchiivka

The ongoing fighting in the village of Klishchiivka adds further weight to Ukraine’s claims as it proves Kyiv’s forces have advanced north, beyond Andriivka and in the direction of Bakhmut.

In its daily assessment on Saturday, the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War (ISW) cited geo-located footage as evidence Ukraine’s troops had “advanced south of Rozdolivka (about 13km northeast of Bakhmut) and in northern Klishchiivka (about 6km southwest of Bakhmut).”

Further, there were already reports on Friday that fighters from the Belarusian volunteer unit Regiment of Kalinovsky had cleared the village with a pre-war population of 550, the Realna Viina reported, but there was no official confirmation.

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Images published by the military information platform showed heavily armed infantry walking upright down a Klishchiivka street, against no opposition.

What comes next?

According to the ISW, Russia is under severe pressure and is being forced to redeploy its most elite troops.

Ukrainian attacks in the Bakhmut area have kept units such as the 83rd Brigade in the area but there is now evidence Moscow is being forced to move elements of such elite units to the southern Zaporizhia region in the face of Ukrainian advances in that sector.

The ISW wrote: “Elements of the 83rd Brigade deployed to defend against Ukrainian counteroffensive operations around Klishchiivka in late June and were observed in combat in the area in late August.

“Elements of the 83rd Brigade were reportedly still operating in the Bakhmut area as of September 11, although elements of the brigade may have been split across two different sectors of the front.

“Klishchiivka has been a focal point of fighting in the Bakhmut area in recent weeks, and the redeployment of any elements of the 83rd VDV Brigade amid Ukrainian advances near Klishchiivka suggests a deep concern about Ukrainian advances in western Zaporizhia Oblast and the Russian prioritization of the defense there.”

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