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Ukrainian forces gaining ground in the south east

Nicholas CecilPolitical Editor
21 June 2023

krainian forces are gaining ground towards Melitopol and Berdiansk in the south east of the country, military sources said on Wednesday.

Andriy Kovalev, a spokesman for the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, told early on Wednesday of the “partial success” in the the Zaporizhzhia region.

“They are gaining ground,” Mr Kovalev was quoted as saying in a post on the Ukraine Military Media Center’s Telegram channel, adding that the gains were near the settlements of Mala Tokmachka and Robotyne, among others.

Ukraine continues to hold back the advance of Russian troops in the east of the country, with “especially heavy fighting” taking place along near Lyman in the Donetsk region, he added.

However, overall the Kyiv’s counter-offensive has so far been slow as Ukrainian troops try to make their way through lines of Russian defences.

In London, the Ministry of Defence stressed that Russian military chiefs were preparing for the possibility of an attempt by Kyiv to seize back parts of Crimea which was annexed by Moscow in 2014.

In its latest intelligence update, the MoD said: “Intense fighting continues in sectors of southern Ukraine. However, over recent weeks, Russia has continued to expend significant effort building defensive lines deep in rear areas, especially on the approaches to occupied Crimea.

“This includes an extensive zone of defences of 9 km in length, 3.5 km north of the town Armyansk, on the narrow bridge of land connecting Crimea to the Kherson region.”

The briefing added: “These elaborate defences highlight the Russian command’s assessment that Ukrainian forces are capable of directly assaulting Crimea.

Russia continues to see maintaining control of the peninsula as a top political priority.”

Ukraine has reported recapturing eight villages in the south in the last two weeks. Though small, the advances are the biggest by the Ukrainian military since November as they push into heavily fortified and mined Russian-held areas.

Kyiv's forces were continuing offensive operations towards the city of Melitopol, a Russian stronghold deep in occupied territory, and towards Berdiansk on the Sea of Azov.

Ukraine has prepared for months for the counter-offensive seen as a crucial juncture in Russia's war, but has imposed a communications blackout and independent reporting is scarce.

Military analysts say it is too early to draw conclusions about the success or otherwise of the two weeks of operations.

They say Kyiv is yet to commit the bulk of its forces, a chunk of which were trained and equipped by the West, but that Ukraine's forward positions remain some distance from Russia's main defensive line.

Russia and Ukraine have both reported inflicting heavy casualties on the other in the latest clashes.

In a statement on the Telegram messaging platform, Ukraine’s deputy defence minister Hanna Maliar reported heavy fighting in the east, especially near the town of Lyman which Kyiv recaptured from Russian forces in October.

"In the east, the defenders continue to hold back a large-scale assault by Russian forces in the Lyman and Bakhmut directions," she said.

She added that the east remained the main focus of Russia's offensive actions and that Moscow still aimed to reach the boundaries of the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk provinces which make up the industrial Donbas region.

Russia said its air defences had downed three drones in the Moscow region on Wednesday in what it called an attempted Ukrainian attack.

This could not be independently verified.

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