According to a new assessment, Ukrainian forces may have “broke through the most difficult line of Russian defenses” in the contested Zaporizhia region of southern Ukraine, where Kyiv has concentrated much of its counter-offensive efforts.
Kiev has made new “tactically significant successes” in the Russian-annexed southern region, with its fighters breaching some of Moscow’s “most demanding” defensive positions, according to the Washington DC-based think tank Institute for the Study of War (ISW). said on Saturday.
Ukraine’s counter-offensive, which has now lasted almost three months, has seen Kiev recapture small areas from encircled Russian forces. The push concentrated on the front lines in the east and south of the country, with attacks on targets in occupied Crimea becoming more frequent.
Soldiers of the 68th Jaeger Brigade “Oleksa Dovbush” walk through a newly liberated village June 10, 2023 in Blahodatne, Ukraine. According to a new assessment, Kiev’s forces have broken through what may be “the most difficult Russian line of defense” in the contested Zaporizhia region of eastern Ukraine. Serhii Mykhalchuk/Global Images Ukraine via Getty Images
A Ukrainian commander in the south of the war-torn country told Reuters An article published on Saturday said it had broken through Russia’s most difficult defenses in the south and will now advance towards the Zaporizhia port city of Berdyansk and the Sea of Azov.
Newsweek asked the Ministry of Defense of Russia and Ukraine for comment.
In the run-up to the counteroffensive, Russia heavily mined the territory that Kiev would need to retake and prepared several layers of defenses, which significantly slowed Ukraine’s progress. It had said it wanted to start the push earlier to prevent Moscow’s armed forces from building effective defenses, but delayed operations to procure Western-made weapons.
The bitter counter-offensive, which some criticized as a slow pace, has now put Ukrainian forces “within striking distance of the next line of prepared Russian defense positions,” the ISW said.
While these defenses may be weaker than those Ukraine has already gone through, they will still pose “a significant challenge,” the think tank added.
Moscow has put “considerable manpower, material and effort” into creating and maintaining the “dense layers of minefields and fortifications” slowly traversing Ukraine, the ISW said.
The next phase of defense is likely to mirror Russia’s first lines, with “dragon’s teeth” fortifications, anti-tank ditches and other mined areas, the assessment said, although it’s difficult to say how well defended they are compared to Ukraine’s are already overcome.
On Sunday, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said that in the past 24 hours Russia had shelled more than 20 settlements in the Zaporizhia region, including Robotyne. Kiev said last week that it now controls the city.
Ukrainian forces were conducting operations and advancing towards the Russian-controlled town of Melitopol in Zaporizhia, including counter-battery resistance measures, the General Staff said in a statement.
The previous day, the Russian Defense Ministry said its units repelled three attacks by a Ukrainian air raid brigade near Robotyne.