Ukraine’s military said its troops made advances along the southern frontline against entrenched Russian defenses as U.S. battle tanks arrived to bolster the four-month-old counteroffensive.
Kyiv’s forces moved forward near the village of Verbove in the southern Zaporizhzhia region, with troops pushing toward the occupied Russian strongholds of Tokmak and Melitopol farther south, according to the Ukrainian General Staff. The Institute for the Study of War called it a “tactical breakthrough,” though it said the situation is fluid.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy meanwhile confirmed the delivery of U.S. Abrams tanks.
“The Abrams have already arrived in Ukraine and are getting ready to strengthen our brigades,” he said on Telegram Monday after a meeting with top officials discuss the security situation.
The Ukrainian leader said last week that his military will continue with the counteroffensive through the autumn and into winter, vowing to keep the pressure on Russian forces. He said Ukraine will “de-occupy two more cities,” though he didn’t identify them.
Since June, the country’s military has struggled to make progress along a frontline that stretches from the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine through the south to the mouth of the Dnipro River. Kremlin troops spent months building a multi-layered defense network, including minefields, ditches and blockades known as dragon’s teeth.
Pushing back on concern that the onset of wetter weather will be another setback, Ukrainian officials have offered assurances that the fighting will continue. U.S. General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said last week that Kyiv has “plenty of fighting weather left” — and muddy terrain will give way to frozen ground, allowing the offensive to stretch into winter.
Ukraine’s military is expanding on gains made a month ago, when its forces pierced the first line of Russian fortifications and recaptured the town of Robotyne. Zelenskyy said troops will also aim to take take Bakhmut, a town in the east that fell to Russia after months of bloody fighting earlier this year.
Russia responded with aerial attacks in Robotyne, Verbove and other villages in the Zaporizhzhia region over the last 24 hours, the Ukrainian General Staff said. Ukrainian forces repelled the assault.
While detailing advances, the Washington-based ISW said the situation on the ground is “changing rapidly” — and that it was too early to predict a significant breakthrough.
“Observers should be patient with Ukraine’s campaign design and should expect Ukraine’s counteroffensive to continue through winter 2023 and into spring 2024,” the ISW said in a daily report. “Ukraine does not need to achieve a sudden and dramatic deep penetration to achieve success.”
Elsewhere, Russia launched a heavy missile and drone attack on the Odesa region on the Black sea overnight, killing at least two and damaging port infrastructure, grain storage facilities, and warehouses, local authorities said. Last week Russia sent a barrage of missiles and drones to target energy infrastructure in central and western Ukraine, prompting electricity outages, Kyiv said.
Ukraine has targeted Russia’s supply lines, including in Crimea. The U.S. administration told Zelenskyy it will provide a small number of long-range ATACMS missiles.