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Russia keeps up pressure on the front line as Ukraine gets a boost from Western military aid

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Russia keeps up pressure on the front line as Ukraine gets a boost from Western military aid
News

News

Russia keeps up pressure on the front line as Ukraine gets a boost from Western military aid

2024-06-26 04:08 Last Updated At:04:10

DONETSK REGION, Ukraine (AP) — Relentless Russian attacks on Ukrainian positions defending the strategically important eastern town of Chasiv Yar are disrupting troop rotations and the delivery of some supplies, soldiers in the area say.

Russian troops are seeking to press their advantage in troop numbers and weaponry before Ukrainian forces are bulked up by promised new Western military aid that is already trickling to the front line, analysts say.

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FILE - Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, right, gestures as he speaks to Russian Chief of General Staff Gen. Valery Gerasimov prior to a meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin with the top military brass in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2023. The International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants Tuesday, June 25, 2024 for Russia’s former defense minister and its military chief of staff for attacking civilian targets in Ukraine. (Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, File)

DONETSK REGION, Ukraine (AP) — Relentless Russian attacks on Ukrainian positions defending the strategically important eastern town of Chasiv Yar are disrupting troop rotations and the delivery of some supplies, soldiers in the area say.

In this photo released by the Russian Defense Ministry Press Service on Tuesday, June 25, 2024, a Russian soldier poses for photo with his dog in a shelter at a position in an undisclosed location in Ukraine. (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP)

In this photo released by the Russian Defense Ministry Press Service on Tuesday, June 25, 2024, a Russian soldier poses for photo with his dog in a shelter at a position in an undisclosed location in Ukraine. (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP)

In this photo released by the Russian Defense Ministry Press Service on Tuesday, June 25, 2024, Russian soldiers pose for photo in a shelter at their position in an undisclosed location in Ukraine. (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP)

In this photo released by the Russian Defense Ministry Press Service on Tuesday, June 25, 2024, Russian soldiers pose for photo in a shelter at their position in an undisclosed location in Ukraine. (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP)

In this photo taken from video released by the Russian Defense Ministry Press Service on Tuesday, June 25, 2024, Russian soldiers fire the 152-mm howitzer "Msta-B" in an undisclosed location in Ukraine. (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP)

In this photo taken from video released by the Russian Defense Ministry Press Service on Tuesday, June 25, 2024, Russian soldiers fire the 152-mm howitzer "Msta-B" in an undisclosed location in Ukraine. (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP)

In this photo released by the Russian Defense Ministry Press Service on Tuesday, June 25, 2024, Russian soldiers fire the 152-mm howitzer "Msta-B" in an undisclosed location in Ukraine. (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP)

In this photo released by the Russian Defense Ministry Press Service on Tuesday, June 25, 2024, Russian soldiers fire the 152-mm howitzer "Msta-B" in an undisclosed location in Ukraine. (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP)

Ukrainian soldiers, of 43rd artillery brigade, fire by 2s7 self-propelled howitzer towards Russian positions at the frontline in Donetsk region, Ukraine, Monday, June 24, 2024. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

Ukrainian soldiers, of 43rd artillery brigade, fire by 2s7 self-propelled howitzer towards Russian positions at the frontline in Donetsk region, Ukraine, Monday, June 24, 2024. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

The Kremlin's military has been hitting civilian targets just as hard, using powerful glide bombs that obliterate buildings and leave huge craters. Its monthslong campaign to cripple Ukraine’s electricity supply aims to sap public morale and deny energy to Ukraine’s burgeoning arms industry.

Attacks on such civilian targets brought arrest warrants from the International Criminal Court on Tuesday for former Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and military chief of staff Gen. Valery Gerasimov for alleged war crimes. Judges said there is evidence they “intentionally caused great suffering or serious injury to body or to mental or physical health” of Ukrainian civilians.

For Ukrainian soldiers defending the eastern Donetsk region, the Russian ground assaults and aerial barrages allow little respite after more than two years of war.

“We work, you could say, without rest,” said a platoon commander who, in line with his brigade's rules, identified himself only by his first name, Oleksandr.

“So no two days are alike. You always need to be ready to work day and night,” he told The Associated Press on Monday.

His platoon is part of Ukraine’s 43rd Artillery Brigade. It dashes to positions and without delay fires a Soviet-era Pion self-propelled howitzer at Russian positions before it can be targeted itself.

Holding Chasiv Yar is crucial. The town, highly sought-after due to its strategic location and elevated position but now largely in ruins, lies to the west of neighboring Bakhmut, which was captured by Russia last year after a 10-month battle.

Ukraine is racing to stabilize parts of the about 1,000-kilometer (620-mile) front line after badly needed military assistance was approved by the United States in April. A six-month delay in U.S. aid threw Ukraine’s military onto the defensive.

Members of the artillery brigade in Chasiv Yar reported that supplies of American ammunition have started to arrive.

The U.S. is expected to announce this week an additional $150 million in critically needed munitions to Ukraine, and Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala said Tuesday that the first shipment of ammunition under a Czech initiative has been delivered to Ukraine.

Separately, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke by phone Tuesday with Russian Minister of Defense Andrei Belousov.

Pentagon spokesman Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder said Austin emphasized the importance of maintaining lines of communication amid Russia’s ongoing war against Ukraine. The last time Austin, who initiated the call, spoke to his Russian counterpart was with then-minister Shoigu on March 15, 2023.

There was no immediate report of the call by Russian officials.

The Czechs are looking to acquire from countries outside the European Union at least 800,000 artillery shells that Ukraine badly needs. The war has drained stockpiles in Europe, the U.S. and Russia.

The Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank, said it will take time for the effects of the new Western weaponry to be felt on the front line.

Meanwhile, it said, “Russian forces are attempting to make tactically and operationally significant gains” before it arrives.

Elsewhere, the Kremlin’s forces kept up their barrages of civilian infrastructure with three aerial strikes in the northeastern Kharkiv region Tuesday, local officials said, though nobody was injured.

Russia has pounded Kharkiv in recent months, apparently to draw some Ukrainian forces away from the defense of Donetsk while trying to create a buffer zone to prevent cross-border Ukrainian attacks.

Russian launched 42 glide bombs against the Kharkiv region in the previous 24 hours, authorities said Tuesday.

In other developments, the Russian Foreign Ministry announced that Moscow has responded to the EU’s decision to suspend the broadcasting activities of Russia’s Voice of Europe, RIA Novosti, Izvestia and Rossiyskaya Gazeta by banning the broadcasts of 81 European media outlets.

“The Russian side has repeatedly warned that politically motivated repressions against Russian journalists and unfounded bans of the Russian media in the EU won’t go unanswered,” the ministry said in a statement.

Late Tuesday, the Russian Defense Ministry and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced that each side had released 90 war prisoners to the other. The exchange was mediated by the United Arab Emirates, they said.

Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

FILE - Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, right, gestures as he speaks to Russian Chief of General Staff Gen. Valery Gerasimov prior to a meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin with the top military brass in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2023. The International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants Tuesday, June 25, 2024 for Russia’s former defense minister and its military chief of staff for attacking civilian targets in Ukraine. (Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, File)

FILE - Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, right, gestures as he speaks to Russian Chief of General Staff Gen. Valery Gerasimov prior to a meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin with the top military brass in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2023. The International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants Tuesday, June 25, 2024 for Russia’s former defense minister and its military chief of staff for attacking civilian targets in Ukraine. (Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP, File)

In this photo released by the Russian Defense Ministry Press Service on Tuesday, June 25, 2024, a Russian soldier poses for photo with his dog in a shelter at a position in an undisclosed location in Ukraine. (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP)

In this photo released by the Russian Defense Ministry Press Service on Tuesday, June 25, 2024, a Russian soldier poses for photo with his dog in a shelter at a position in an undisclosed location in Ukraine. (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP)

In this photo released by the Russian Defense Ministry Press Service on Tuesday, June 25, 2024, Russian soldiers pose for photo in a shelter at their position in an undisclosed location in Ukraine. (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP)

In this photo released by the Russian Defense Ministry Press Service on Tuesday, June 25, 2024, Russian soldiers pose for photo in a shelter at their position in an undisclosed location in Ukraine. (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP)

In this photo taken from video released by the Russian Defense Ministry Press Service on Tuesday, June 25, 2024, Russian soldiers fire the 152-mm howitzer "Msta-B" in an undisclosed location in Ukraine. (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP)

In this photo taken from video released by the Russian Defense Ministry Press Service on Tuesday, June 25, 2024, Russian soldiers fire the 152-mm howitzer "Msta-B" in an undisclosed location in Ukraine. (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP)

In this photo released by the Russian Defense Ministry Press Service on Tuesday, June 25, 2024, Russian soldiers fire the 152-mm howitzer "Msta-B" in an undisclosed location in Ukraine. (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP)

In this photo released by the Russian Defense Ministry Press Service on Tuesday, June 25, 2024, Russian soldiers fire the 152-mm howitzer "Msta-B" in an undisclosed location in Ukraine. (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP)

Ukrainian soldiers, of 43rd artillery brigade, fire by 2s7 self-propelled howitzer towards Russian positions at the frontline in Donetsk region, Ukraine, Monday, June 24, 2024. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

Ukrainian soldiers, of 43rd artillery brigade, fire by 2s7 self-propelled howitzer towards Russian positions at the frontline in Donetsk region, Ukraine, Monday, June 24, 2024. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

CABOT, Pa. (AP) — A fire truck carried Corey Comperatore’s flag-draped casket to a Pennsylvania church on Friday for the funeral of the former fire chief, who was shot and killed when a gunman tried to assassinate former President Donald Trump last weekend.

Hundreds of firefighters arrived at the church in a procession of over 100 trucks in a show of support for Comperatore's grieving relatives and friends. Outside the church, a massive American flag hung from the ladder of a fire truck.

A sharpshooter team mounted on a nearby rooftop served as a reminder of last weekend's bloodshed. Officials have said that Comperatore spent his final moments shielding his wife and daughter from gunfire at Trump’s rally last Saturday in Butler, Pennsylvania.

Trump, who suffered an ear injury in the shooting but was not seriously hurt, is not going to the funeral because of Secret Service concerns, according to a person familiar with the situation who was not authorized to speak publicly.

Annette Locke, a member of the West Deer Township Volunteer Fire Department, stood across the road from the church and lightly touched her heart as she spoke about the horrific toll from the “totally senseless" shooting.

“He was with his family on a beautiful sunny day, and now he’s gone,” Locke said.

Joe and Jen Brose stood at the edge of their driveway with their three young boys, all dressed in T-shirts celebrating the USA, watching the long procession of fire and emergency trucks go by.

“The community comes together at times like this,” Joe Brose said.

“I thought it was very heartwarming, it was very humbling to see it,” said Jen Brose, whose sister had attended the Trump rally.

Trump honored Comperatore during his speech Thursday night at the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee. He displayed Comperatore's firefighting gear on the convention stage, kissing his helmet and heralding the ex-chief as “an unbelievable person.”

Comperatore, 50, worked as a project and tooling engineer, was an Army reservist and spent many years as a volunteer firefighter after serving as chief, according to his obituary.

On Thursday, thousands of mourners filed into a banquet hall to pay their respects to Comperatore and his family. Hundreds of people gathered Wednesday at a vigil for him at an auto racing track.

Guests at Thursday's visitation for Comperatore saw a slideshow of photos from his life — his wedding, a recent 50th birthday party, time with his daughters, firefighting, fishing, and palling around with his Dobermans. Also on display was a framed copy of a note to Comperatore’s wife signed by Trump and former first lady Melania Trump.

"Corey will forever be remembered as a True American Hero,” the Trumps wrote.

A statement issued Thursday by Comperatore's family described him as a “beloved father and husband, and a friend to so many throughout the Butler region.”

"Our family is finding comfort and peace through the heartfelt messages of encouragement from people around the world, through the support of our church and community, and most of all through the strength of God," the statement said.

Two other people were wounded at Trump's rally: David Dutch, 57, of New Kensington, and James Copenhaver, 74, of Moon Township. As of Wednesday night, both had been upgraded to serious but stable condition, according to a spokesperson with Allegheny Health Network.

A firefighter stages before the funeral procession for Corey Comperatore, Friday, July 19, 2024, in Sarver, Pa. Comperatore, a former fire chief, was shot and killed while attending a weekend rally for former President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

A firefighter stages before the funeral procession for Corey Comperatore, Friday, July 19, 2024, in Sarver, Pa. Comperatore, a former fire chief, was shot and killed while attending a weekend rally for former President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

A rider and firefighting truck stage for the funeral procession for Corey Comperatore, Friday, July 19, 2024, in Sarver, Pa. Comperatore, a former fire chief, was shot and killed while attending a weekend rally for former President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

A rider and firefighting truck stage for the funeral procession for Corey Comperatore, Friday, July 19, 2024, in Sarver, Pa. Comperatore, a former fire chief, was shot and killed while attending a weekend rally for former President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

A firetruck stages for the funeral procession of Corey Comperatore, Friday, July 19, 2024, in Sarver, Pa. Comperatore, a former fire chief, was shot and killed while attending a weekend rally for former President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

A firetruck stages for the funeral procession of Corey Comperatore, Friday, July 19, 2024, in Sarver, Pa. Comperatore, a former fire chief, was shot and killed while attending a weekend rally for former President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

The funeral procession for Corey Comperatore passes, Friday, July 19, 2024, in Sarver, Pa. Comperatore, a former fire chief, was shot and killed while attending a weekend rally for former President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

The funeral procession for Corey Comperatore passes, Friday, July 19, 2024, in Sarver, Pa. Comperatore, a former fire chief, was shot and killed while attending a weekend rally for former President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

The funeral procession for Corey Comperatore passes, Friday, July 19, 2024, in Sarver, Pa. Comperatore, a former fire chief, was shot and killed while attending a weekend rally for former President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

The funeral procession for Corey Comperatore passes, Friday, July 19, 2024, in Sarver, Pa. Comperatore, a former fire chief, was shot and killed while attending a weekend rally for former President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Merri Cambo, left, of Saxonburg, Pa., and her friend, Jane Wesolosky, of Buffalo, Pa., react as the funeral procession for Corey Comperatore passes by, Friday, July 19, 2024, in Sarver, Pa. Comperatore, a former fire chief, was shot and killed while attending a weekend rally for former President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Merri Cambo, left, of Saxonburg, Pa., and her friend, Jane Wesolosky, of Buffalo, Pa., react as the funeral procession for Corey Comperatore passes by, Friday, July 19, 2024, in Sarver, Pa. Comperatore, a former fire chief, was shot and killed while attending a weekend rally for former President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

The funeral procession for Corey Comperatore passes, Friday, July 19, 2024, in Sarver, Pa. Comperatore, a former fire chief, was shot and killed while attending a weekend rally for former President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

The funeral procession for Corey Comperatore passes, Friday, July 19, 2024, in Sarver, Pa. Comperatore, a former fire chief, was shot and killed while attending a weekend rally for former President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

A flag is seen before the funeral procession for Corey Comperatore, Friday, July 19, 2024, in Sarver, Pa. Comperatore, a former fire chief, was shot and killed while attending a weekend rally for former President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

A flag is seen before the funeral procession for Corey Comperatore, Friday, July 19, 2024, in Sarver, Pa. Comperatore, a former fire chief, was shot and killed while attending a weekend rally for former President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

The funeral procession for Corey Comperatore passes, Friday, July 19, 2024, in Sarver, Pa. Comperatore, a former fire chief, was shot and killed while attending a weekend rally for former President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

The funeral procession for Corey Comperatore passes, Friday, July 19, 2024, in Sarver, Pa. Comperatore, a former fire chief, was shot and killed while attending a weekend rally for former President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

The funeral procession for Corey Comperatore passes, Friday, July 19, 2024, in Sarver, Pa. Comperatore, a former fire chief, was shot and killed while attending a weekend rally for former President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

The funeral procession for Corey Comperatore passes, Friday, July 19, 2024, in Sarver, Pa. Comperatore, a former fire chief, was shot and killed while attending a weekend rally for former President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

People wait for the funeral procession for Corey Comperatore, Friday, July 19, 2024, in Sarver, Pa. Comperatore, a former fire chief, was shot and killed while attending a weekend rally for former President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

People wait for the funeral procession for Corey Comperatore, Friday, July 19, 2024, in Sarver, Pa. Comperatore, a former fire chief, was shot and killed while attending a weekend rally for former President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Jane Wesolosky, of Buffalo, Pa., waves a flag as the funeral procession for Corey Comperatore passes, Friday, July 19, 2024, in Sarver, Pa. Comperatore, a former fire chief, was shot and killed while attending a weekend rally for former President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Jane Wesolosky, of Buffalo, Pa., waves a flag as the funeral procession for Corey Comperatore passes, Friday, July 19, 2024, in Sarver, Pa. Comperatore, a former fire chief, was shot and killed while attending a weekend rally for former President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

A giant American flag is unfurled outside the Cabot Church, in Cabot, Pa., Friday, July 19, 2024, before the funeral service for Buffalo Township Volunteer fireman Corey Comeratore, who was killed at a Pennsylvania rally for Donald Trump, Saturday, July 13, 2024. Corey Comperatore's quick decision to use his body as a shield against the bullets flying toward his wife and daughter rang true to the close friends and neighbors who loved and respected the proud 50-year-old Trump supporter, noting that the Butler County resident was a "man of conviction." (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

A giant American flag is unfurled outside the Cabot Church, in Cabot, Pa., Friday, July 19, 2024, before the funeral service for Buffalo Township Volunteer fireman Corey Comeratore, who was killed at a Pennsylvania rally for Donald Trump, Saturday, July 13, 2024. Corey Comperatore's quick decision to use his body as a shield against the bullets flying toward his wife and daughter rang true to the close friends and neighbors who loved and respected the proud 50-year-old Trump supporter, noting that the Butler County resident was a "man of conviction." (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Pennsylvania State Police arrive at the Cabot Church, in Cabot, Pa., Friday, July 19, 2024, before the funeral service for Buffalo Township Volunteer fireman Corey Comeratore, who was killed at a Pennsylvania rally for Donald Trump, Saturday, July 13, 2024. Corey Comperatore's quick decision to use his body as a shield against the bullets flying toward his wife and daughter rang true to the close friends and neighbors who loved and respected the proud 50-year-old Trump supporter, noting that the Butler County resident was a "man of conviction.". (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Pennsylvania State Police arrive at the Cabot Church, in Cabot, Pa., Friday, July 19, 2024, before the funeral service for Buffalo Township Volunteer fireman Corey Comeratore, who was killed at a Pennsylvania rally for Donald Trump, Saturday, July 13, 2024. Corey Comperatore's quick decision to use his body as a shield against the bullets flying toward his wife and daughter rang true to the close friends and neighbors who loved and respected the proud 50-year-old Trump supporter, noting that the Butler County resident was a "man of conviction.". (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

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