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Ukrainians make gains, stop Russian gas at hub

ZAPORIZHZHIA, UKRAINE (AP) – Ukraine’s natural gas pipeline operator yesterday stopped Russian shipments through a key hub in the east of the country, while its president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said Kyiv’s military had made small gains, pushing Russian forces out of four villages near Kharkiv.

The pipeline operator said Russian shipments through its Novopskov hub, in an area controlled by Moscow-backed separatists, was cut yesterday.

It said the hub handles about a third of Russian gas passing through Ukraine to Western Europe. Russia’s state-owned Gazprom put the figure at about a quarter.

The move marks the first time natural gas supply has been affected by the war. It may force Russia to shift flows of its gas through territory controlled by Ukraine to reach its clients in Europe.

Russia’s state energy giant Gazprom initially said it couldn’t, though flow data suggested higher rates moving through a second station in Ukrainian-controlled territory.

The operator said it was stopping the flow because of interference from “occupying forces”, including the apparent siphoning of gas.

Destroyed Russian military vehicles lie in a garbage dump in Bucha, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine. PHOTO: AP

Russia could reroute shipments through Sudzha, a main hub in a northern part of the country controlled by Ukraine, it said.

But Gazprom spokesperson Sergei Kupriyanov said that would be “technologically impossible”. Zelenskyy said on Tuesday that the military was gradually pushing Russian troops away from Kharkiv.

Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba voiced increasing confidence, suggesting Ukraine could go beyond just forcing Russia back to areas it held before the invasion.

Kuleba told the Financial Times that Ukraine initially believed victory would be the withdrawal of Russian troops to positions they occupied before the invasion.

But the focus shifted to the eastern industrial heartland of the Donbas after Russian forces failed to take Kyiv early in the war.

“Now if we are strong enough on the military front, and we win the battle for Donbas, which will be crucial for the following dynamics of the war, of course the victory for us in this war will be the liberation of the rest of our territories,” Kuleba said.

Kuleba’s statement seemed to reflect political ambitions more than battlefield realities – Russian forces have made advances in the Donbas and control more of it than they did before the war began.

But it highlights how Ukraine has stymied a larger, better-armed military, surprising many who anticipated a quicker end to the conflict.