(Kyiv) Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Monday denied the capture by Russian forces of the village of Ryjivka in the Sumy region, which was earlier claimed by Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov.

A push by Russian soldiers in this border sector raises fears of the opening of a new axis of offensive at a time when Ukrainian troops, who lack men and ammunition, have already had to dispatch precious reserves to the neighboring region of Kharkov.

“Regarding the village of Ryjivka, the occupier tried to carry out a propaganda operation there. Since this morning, the Russian flag (raised in the) village has been destroyed and there is no presence of the occupier,” Zelensky said on Telegram.

The leader of the Russian republic of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, a loyalist of Vladimir Putin who sent fighters to Ukraine, assured Sunday evening on Telegram that Russian troops had seized this locality located on the border with Russia.

According to Kadyrov, soldiers of the Chechen Akhmat battalion, “together with servicemen of other Russian units, conducted tactical operations and liberated” the town, inflicting “significant losses” on the Ukrainians, who “retreated.”

Mr. Zelensky for his part asserts that “(Ukrainian) forces are in total control of the situation” in the Sumy region, which had not been the target of a major Russian ground attack since the start of the conflict in 2022.

In the Donetsk region, in the east, where most of the fighting is still concentrated, the situation is “more difficult”, acknowledged the Ukrainian president.

Youry Zarko, head of the municipality of Bilopillia to which Ryzhivka is attached, also denied on television the fall of this locality, declaring that no Russian soldiers were there.

In May, Mr. Zelensky said he feared a second Russian assault along the border, after the first launched on May 10 in the Kharkiv region, where the attackers managed to seize several villages before being slowed down by Ukrainian reinforcements.

In recent weeks, the authorities have evacuated residents of certain border towns in the Sumy region in the face of intensified Russian bombing.

Russia claimed Monday the capture of a village in southeastern Ukraine, in one of the few areas where Ukrainian troops made progress during their difficult counter-offensive last summer.

“Units of the Eastern group of troops continued to advance deep into the enemy defense and liberated the settlement of Staromayorské,” the Russian Defense Ministry announced in its daily report.

The Ukrainian army took this village in July, at the height of its major summer counter-offensive, which ended in failure overall, but allowed it to regain some ground in certain sectors, particularly in the south.

Staromayorsk is located in the south of the eastern Donetsk region.

Russian troops have gained ground in recent months, with Russian President Vladimir Putin last week claiming 880 km2 of land conquered since the start of the year and around fifty localities. They also launched an offensive in the Kharkiv region (north-east) on May 10, seizing several localities before being slowed down by reinforcements dispatched by Kyiv.

In the Donetsk region, where the Russian army is advancing in the eastern areas of Chassiv Iar and in the direction of Pokrovsk in particular, soldiers interviewed on Sunday by AFP described a situation that was at best “difficult”, at worst demoralizing, in the face of daily assaults.

For Oleksandr, a 36-year-old tanker, “the fiercest fighting takes place here,” around the towns of Pokrovsk and Chassiv Yar.

Danylo Madiar, a 23-year-old soldier going by the nom de guerre “Macron,” admits that the situation has been “pretty tough” since the fall. Russian troops “advanced strongly” and, on the Ukrainian side, “there were a lot of losses, it was difficult to hold the lines,” he said.

This drone operator sees pessimism gaining on many of his comrades, “after everything they have seen”. “For many, it’s difficult to remain optimistic,” he says.

In addition, one man was killed and two others injured in the village of Dergatchiv, in the Kharkiv region, which has been the subject of a large ground offensive for a month. “According to initial information, the enemy used an anti-aircraft weapon,” the region’s governor, Oleg Synegoubov, explained on Telegram.

For its part, the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces announced on its social networks that it had destroyed “Russian anti-aircraft missile systems” S-400 and S-300 in occupied Crimea, information that AFP did not have. could be verified from an independent source.

“None of our missiles were intercepted by the enemy’s “very effective” air defense,” the Ukrainian General Staff scoffed in its statement.