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Russian forces take control of three settlements in Ukraine, says defence ministry

MOSCOW (Reuters) -Russian forces have taken control of two more settlements in Ukraine’s northeast Kharkiv region and one in the southern Zaporizhzhia region, the defence ministry said on Wednesday, building on a run of incremental gains that have alarmed Kyiv.

Moscow’s forces have pushed into the Kharkiv region this month, home to Ukraine’s second biggest city, in what Western military analysts believe may be an attempt to carve out a so-called buffer zone to try to protect Russia’s neighbouring Belgorod region from Ukrainian shelling and incursions.

The defence ministry said in a statement that units from Russia’s “North” military grouping had captured the settlements of Hlyboke and Lukyantsi in the Kharkiv region after intense fighting and had advanced “deep into the enemy defences.”

The ministry spoke of heavy fighting in other parts of Kharkiv region too where it said Russian forces had repelled three Ukrainian counter attacks.

The Ukrainian military said late on Tuesday that Ukrainian troops had pulled back to “more advantageous” positions in two areas of the Kharkiv region. It said the fallback was “a consequence of enemy fire and storming action” and “to preserve the lives of our servicemen and avoid losses”.

Russia’s defence ministry said that units from its military grouping “Dnepr” had also made headway in the south, taking full control of the settlement of Robotyne in the Zaporizhzhia region.

The Ukrainian military dismissed the Russian claim about Robotyne.

“This information is not true,” Dmytro Pletenchuk, the military spokesman, was quoted by Ukrinform agency as saying.

The Ukrainian General Staff had said earlier on Wednesday that its troops had repelled three Russian attacks in the direction of Robotyne.

Russia said its air defences had also shot down a Ukrainian MiG-29 warplane along with 40 drones and a slew of U.S.-made rockets.

Reuters could not independently verify the battlefield reports.

(Reporting by Reuters bureau in Moscow; Additional reporting from Kyiv bureau; Editing by Andrew Osborn and Alison Wlliams)

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