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Ukraine breaches Russia’s first defenses on the southern front

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Ukrainian forces have penetrated the first line of Russian defenses at a key point on the southern front, in a tentative sign that Kiev’s bitter counteroffensive may be gaining momentum.

Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said on Monday that Ukrainian troops had completely liberated the hotly contested village of Robotyne in the Zaporizhia region and were “advancing to the south-east”. . . despite fierce enemy resistance”.

Ukraine’s military said last week that its forces had flown the national flag at Robotyne but continued to come under fire from Russian forces, which had set up a number of heavily mined defense lines along the southern front.

Ukraine’s much-anticipated counteroffensive following the all-out invasion of Moscow in February 2022 began almost three months ago. Fighting focused on trying to reach the southern coast and sever the land bridge that connected mainland Russia to Russian-occupied Crimea.

However, progress has been shockingly slow, creating tensions between Ukraine and its western allies.

US officials painted a bleak picture of the counteroffensive, expressing pessimism that Kyiv will be able to recapture significant areas before the wet autumn weather affects its forces’ maneuverability or runs out of combat capability.

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This has given the village of Robotyne importance beyond its size, as Ukraine’s capture of the settlement may pave the way to breaching Russian defenses and pushing further south into strategic cities such as the logistics hub of Tokmak.

According to reports from the Ukrainian military and open intelligence, Ukrainian forces have penetrated the first line of Russian defenses behind Robotyne and are within striking distance of the next layer of defenses.

They said Russia would move top troops from its 76th Air Assault Division to reinforce the area. Ukraine has also used special forces in the fighting for Robotyne, including troops from its 73rd Special Operations Center.

Oleksandr Shtupun, spokesman for the local Ukrainian defense forces, said on Sunday that Ukraine was “advancing in the region”. . . around Robotyne” and that the Russian army used reinforcements from elsewhere to bolster the defenses.

But any further Ukrainian advance will be difficult against a networked system of trenches and tunnels that allows the Russian military to move troops, weapons and ammunition along the front line. Anti-tank ditches and minefields make the Kiev troops even more difficult.

“Russian units continue to valiantly slow down Ukrainian units on the southern outskirts of Robotyne,” Russian military blogger Rybar, who has nearly 2 million followers on Telegram, wrote on the social media app on Sunday. “Nevertheless, the enemy managed to advance,” Rybar said.

The Ukrainian military is pursuing a gradual attrition strategy aimed at destroying Russia’s logistics and artillery systems so that its forces can breach minefields without incurring major casualties. But US officials have reportedly argued that Kiev must instead concentrate its forces to breach Russian defenses with a knockout strike.

However, General Mark Milley, head of the US armed forces, recently assessed Ukraine’s chances with cautious optimism.

“They attacked through the first main line of defense. . . They’re fighting through,” Milley said in an interview aired on Jordanian television on Thursday. “They’re making steady progress.”

Source: www.ft.com

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Amanda Walker

Global events enthusiast. Reporting with a critical lens to offer readers a deeper perspective.

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