KIEV, Aug 28 (Reuters) – Ukraine announced on Monday that its forces had liberated the south-eastern settlement of Robotyne and were attempting to advance further south in their counter-offensive against Russian forces.
Ukraine’s military said last week that its forces had raised the national flag in the strategic settlement but continued to carry out clean-up operations.
Ukrainian forces believe they have breached Russia’s toughest line of defenses in the south and will now advance faster, a commander who led the troops to Robotyne told Reuters last week.
“Robotyne was freed,” Deputy Secretary of Defense Hanna Maliar was quoted as saying by the military.
The settlement is 10 km (six miles) south of the frontline town of Orichiv in the Zaporizhia region on a major road to Tokmak, a Russian-held road and rail junction.
Capturing Tokmak would be a milestone as Ukrainian forces head south towards the Sea of Azov in a military push, slated to split Russian forces after the all-out invasion of Moscow in February 2022.
Maliar told Ukrainian television that Kiev’s troops, which began their counter-offensive in early June, are now advancing southeast of Robotyne and south of nearby Mala Tokmachka.
Ukraine’s success in recapturing Robotyne, which Russia has not confirmed, follows media reports of a meeting this month between senior NATO military chiefs and Ukraine’s top general on rebalancing Ukraine’s military strategy.
“VERY HOT” ON THE EAST FRONT
Ukrainian forces are also fighting Russian troops in eastern Ukraine, and the counter-offensive progressed more slowly than widely expected as they encountered huge Russian minefields and trenches.
Maliar described the situation on the battlefield in the east as “very hot” over the past week. She said Russian troops were mustering and regrouping there, and that Moscow wanted to station its best troops there.
Ukrainian forces were advancing further south of Bakhmut, she said, referring to the nearly destroyed eastern town that was captured by Moscow’s forces in May after months of fierce fighting.
She added that Ukrainian forces retook a square kilometer (0.39 sq mi) around Bakhmut in the past week and Russian troops made no progress.
In the latest of Russia’s frequent airstrikes on Ukraine, two people were killed overnight when a vegetable oil plant was hit in the central Poltava region, the region’s governor said.
Russia said it shot down a Ukrainian drone heading towards Moscow in the early hours of Monday morning, causing a brief halt to flights over the Russian capital.
Reuters could not immediately confirm the situation on the battlefield due to the reports of the recent attacks.
Reporting by Tom Balmforth, text by Anna Pruchnicka, edited by Timothy Heritage
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