Ukrainian soldiers have made “notable progress” in their counteroffensive against Russia over that last 72 hours. That is according to a leading US security official who says troops have broken through Russia’s first line of defence.
Speaking in Washington, White House security council spokesman John Kirby said the US had “noted over the last 72 hours or so some notable progress by Ukrainian armed forces … in that southern line of advance coming out of the Zaporizhzhia area”.
It comes as social media reports suggest Ukraine had also been targetting the Crimean bridge with drone activity. Kirby now said Ukraine had to capitalise on its advances, .
He said: “They have achieved some success against that second line of Russian defences.”
In recent days, battlefield analysis from the west has shown Ukraine breaking through Russian lines for several kilometres between Robotyne, a village recaptured by Ukraine recently, and Verbove in the Zaporizhzhia region. Its aim is to advance directly south of the Sea of Azov, cutting off land access to the occupied Crimea.
Russian forces though have established deep barriers across the terrain. These include tank traps, minefields and other defences to slow down the Ukrainian fightback.
Kirby, unhappy with anonymous claims about the “slow progress”, said: “We’ve all seen the criticism by anonymous officials out there, which frankly is not helpful. Any objective observer of this counteroffensive, you can’t deny … that they have made progress now.”
Some Ukrainian officials fear the west’s support could begin to drop off as colder, wetter weather will hamper the advances later in the year. But, on Friday, defence minister, Hanna Maliar, also said Kyiv’s troops were advancing in the Zaporizhzhia region.
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She added that Kyiv’s troops have been battling to advance through heavily mined areas for almost three months. And heavy fighting swept the villages around Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine, which was captured by Russia in May.
Armed forces staff from Ukraine on Facebook however noted that Russian forces had made no headway in their attempts to advance on five difference sectors, stretching from Kupiansk in the north-east to different parts of the Donetsk region. Ukraine’s counteroffensive is yet to recapture any major settlements but it has claimed back small villages.
Robotyne, reclaimed last week, lies in front of Russian-occupied high ground, huge anti-tank ditches, and lines of concrete fortifications. Russia has also been critical of the push, calling it a failure.
Kyiv however says progress has been deliberately slow to minimise losses. It says this is made more difficult because it lacks the air power allies can take for granted.