Ukrainian troops may have “broke through Russia’s most difficult line of defense” in southern Ukraine’s disputed Zaporozhye region, where Kiev has been focusing most of its counteroffensive efforts, according to a new assessment.
The Washington, D.C.-based Institute for War (ISW) think tank said Kiev had made new “tactically significant advances” in the Russian-annexed south, with its fighter jets breaking through some of Moscow’s “most challenging” defensive positions, it said Saturday. .
The Ukrainian counteroffensive is now nearly three months old and Kiev has retaken a small amount of territory from garrisoned Russian troops. Attacks have focused on the country’s eastern and southern fronts, with an increasing number of strikes on targets in occupied Crimea.
A Ukrainian commander in the south of the war-torn country tells us Reuters An article published on Saturday said it had broken through the most difficult defenses in southern Russia and would now advance towards the port city of Zaporizhia, Berdyansk, and into the Sea of Azov.
Weekly newspaper The Russian and Ukrainian defense ministries have been contacted for comment.
Before launching a counteroffensive, Russia heavily mined the territory Kiev needed to recapture and prepared multiple layers of defense, which significantly slowed Ukraine’s progress. It has said it intends to start early on preventing Moscow’s military from building an effective defense, but has delayed taking over Western-made weapons.
The harrowing counteroffensive, which some have criticized for its slow pace, has now put Ukrainian forces “within striking distance of Russia’s next series of prepared defensive positions,” the ISW said.
The think tank added that while those defenses may be weaker than those Ukraine has already passed, they would still pose a “significant challenge”.
The ISW said Moscow had invested “substantial manpower, material and energy” in creating and controlling the “dense minefields and fortifications” that Ukraine was slowly passing through.
The next phase of defense is likely to mimic Russia’s first line of defense, with “Dragon’s Tooth” fortifications, anti-tank trenches and more minefields ahead, the assessment says, though it’s hard to tell how well they compare to Ukrainian fortifications tight. Already overcome.
Russia shelled more than 20 settlements in the Zaporozhye region, including Robotyne, in the past 24 hours, Ukraine’s Armed Forces General Staff said on Sunday. Kiev said last week it now controls the town.
The General Staff said in a statement that Ukrainian troops were conducting operations and advancing towards the Russian-controlled city of Melitopol in Zaporozhye, including counter-battery resistance.
The day before, the Russian Ministry of Defense said its forces had repelled three attacks by a Ukrainian air assault brigade near Lobutan.