Ukraine’s military forces claimed a breakthrough against Russian defense on Monday in a counter-offensive attempt launched towards regaining the Russian-held region of Kherson.
The reported breakthrough forms part of a long-anticipated counter-offensive by Ukraine attempting to regain the southern part of the country following weeks of attacks aimed at cutting off Russian forces there from 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.”
During his late-night video address, President Zelensky issued a stark warning to Russian forces that “if they want to survive, it is time for Russian soldiers to flee…Go home,” he cautioned.
The Presidency in a briefing early on Tuesday also said intense fighting was taking place in “almost the entire territory of Kherson,” an indication that the war was raging.
During the initial days of Russia’s invasion, Kherson became the first major Ukrainian city to fall into Russian hands after troops advanced into the city from the Crimean Peninsula.
Russia’s military quashes claims insisting Ukrainian troops “suffered heavy losses”
Although claims by both Ukraine and Russian forces have not yet been independently verified, Russia’s defense ministry said that Ukrainian troops had attempted an offensive in the Kherson and neighboring Mykolaiv regions.
The ministry was further quoted by Russia’s state-run news agencies, which said that the operation had failed and that Ukrainian troops had “suffered heavy losses” during an unsuccessful attack.
Blasts had been reported earlier in Nova Kakhovka some 55km (34 miles) northeast. It was said that the city was left without electricity and water supply overnight, and for a second day, explosions and shots were heard in the Kherson capital.
In an update early on Tuesday, Ukraine’s operational command spokesman for the south said thirteen Russian command posts had been destroyed in addition to three ammunition depots crossing over the Dnipro River.
However, President Zelensky and other top Ukrainian officials have not aired out much about details of the reported counter-offensive, urging Ukrainians to be patient.
Strikes by Ukraine military a targeted effort to recapture entire Kherson region
Western military sources indicate that 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.
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,” a UK defense intelligence assessment said.
Before the war, Kherson had a population of 290,000, and it is the only regional capital to have been taken by Russian forces. It is currently administered by Moscow-backed officials.
Rocket launchers such as HIMARS supplied by the US to Ukraine were used to destroy key crossings on the Dnipro in recent weeks and are now targeting makeshift Russian pontoon bridges, Kyiv officials said.