The Ukrainian military is reporting successes, and says it has broken through Russia’s first line of defence in the occupied Kherson region in a push that appears to herald a long-awaited counter-offensive being launched by Kyiv in an attempt to retake the country’s south, Reuters reports.
This follows weeks of intensive Ukrainian precision attacks aimed at cutting off Russian forces from their main supply routes.
Early on Monday, Ukraine’s Kakhovka operational group in the south said that one regiment of Russian-backed forces had left its positions in the Kherson region. It added that Russian paratroopers providing the back-up had fled the battlefield.
Oleksiy Arestovych, adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky’s head of office, later also said that Ukraine’s armed forces “have broken through the frontline in several places”.
In his late night video address, President Zelensky issued a stark warning to Russian forces: “If they want to survive, it is time for Russian soldiers to flee. Go home.”
In a briefing early on Tuesday, the presidency said intense fighting was taking place in “almost the entire territory of Kherson”, AFP news agency reported.
Explosions and shots were heard for a second day in the regional capital of Kherson. Blasts had earlier been reported in Nova Kakhovka, some 55km north-east and Russia’s state-run Ria Novosti news agency reported the city was left without electricity and water supply overnight.
In an update early on Tuesday, a spokesman for Ukraine’s operational command in the south said 13 Russian command posts had been destroyed, as well as three ammunition depots and a crossing over the Dnipro river.
Kyiv officials say they have used US-supplied Himars rocket systems to destroy key crossings on the Dnipro in recent weeks and are now targeting makeshift Russian pontoon bridges.
According to Western military sources, Kyiv’s strikes are part of a targeted effort to cut off Russian troops on the right (western) bank of the river with the ultimate goal of recapturing the entire Kherson region. A UK defence intelligence assessment said Russia had made significant efforts to reinforce the western bank but most of its units were “likely undermanned and are reliant upon fragile supply lines”.
President Zelensky and other top Ukrainian officials have been tight-lipped about details of the reported counter-offensive, urging Ukrainians to be patient.
Responding to the Ukrainian claims, Russia’s defence ministry said that Ukrainian troops had attempted an offensive in the Kherson and neighbouring Mykolaiv regions.
The ministry was quoted by Russia’s state-run news agencies as saying this operation had failed, and that the Ukrainian troops had “suffered heavy losses”.
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