Following a previous claim by Russian-backed troops to have seized it intact, an advisor to President Volodymyr Zelenskiy stated on Wednesday that Russian forces had taken over Ukraine’s second largest power facility.

Taking control of the Soviet-era coal-fired Vuhlehirsk power plant in eastern Ukraine would be Moscow’s first strategic victory in more than three weeks in what it refers to as a “special operation” to demilitarize and “denazify” its neighbor.

“They achieved a tiny tactical advantage – they captured Vuhlehirsk,” consultant Oleksiy Arestovych stated in a YouTube interview.

According to Arestovych, Russia is conducting a “massive redeployment” of soldiers to three southern districts.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday that he scheduled a phone call with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, the first between the two officials since the conflict began.

The conversation would not be “a negotiation about Ukraine,” Blinken said at a press conference, reiterating Washington’s view that any peace negotiations must take place between Kyiv and Moscow.

According to TASS, Russia has received no official request from Washington for a phone contact between Blinken and Lavrov.

Blinken said that the US had offered “a substantial offer” to Russia in exchange for the release of US nationals WNBA star Brittney Griner and former US Marine Paul Whelan. 

Aside from mentioning Americans held by Russia, Blinken said he will discuss with Lavrov the preliminary grain export agreement struck last week by Russia, the US, Turkey, and Ukraine.

Rising energy costs and a worldwide wheat scarcity, which threatens millions of people in poorer nations with starvation, are two of the war’s far-reaching consequences.

Sources: Reuters

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