(Reuters) – Ukraine’s military and Russia’s Wagner private army both reported fresh Russian retreats on the outskirts of Bakhmut, as Kyiv pressed on with its biggest advance for six months ahead of a planned major counteroffensive.
* Ukraine’s military said its troops had advanced in places by more than a mile. Some of its soldiers on the front line said Russian troops were pounding supply lines to try to halt the gains.
* Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin says his forces inside Bakhmut itself were still advancing. But he accused commanders of Russia’s regular forces of abandoning vital ground north of the city, exposing his troops.
* Ukraine’s reported gains amount to a striking change of momentum in the east, where Kyiv’s forces had been on the defensive for half a year, weathering a huge winter and spring offensive by Moscow that saw only slow gains.
* Air raid sirens sounded across most of Ukraine overnight Wednesday into Thursday, as Russia kept up missile and drone strikes. One person was reported killed in the southern city of Odesa. Ukraine said it shot down 29 of 30 incoming missiles. Moscow said it hit its military targets.
* Officials in Russian-occupied Crimea reported a freight train had been derailed overnight by “interference”. Kyiv never confirms any role in incidents there.
* Reuters could not verify the battlefield reports.
DIPLOMACY AND ECONOMY
* Leaders of the G7 group of big developed countries were meeting in Japan where they are expected to unveil tighter measures to close off Russia’s opportunities to bypass financial sanctions.
* At a meeting in Russia’s former Central Asian backyard, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development pledged further support for Ukraine with plans to increase its capital by 3 billion-5 billion euros.
* On Wednesday, Moscow agreed to a two-month extension of a deal safeguarding exports of Ukrainian grain from Black Sea ports despite the war. Russia had threatened to abandon the deal unless it received additional guarantees protecting its own grain and fertiliser exports.
* Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow had agreed to the extension although its concerns were not yet fully addressed.
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* INSIGHT-How Russians end up in a far-right militia fighting in Ukraine.
* INSIGHT-Ukraine farms lose workers to war, complicating a tough harvest
* EXPLAINER-Why the EU is restricting grain imports from Ukraine
(Compiled by Reuters editors)