Ukraine breaks through Russian lines in strategic southern region
Ukrainian forces appeared to make gains over the weekend in Kherson Oblast, the latest pushback in areas Russia claimed to annex on Friday.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in his nightly address on Sunday said the country’s military liberated Arkhanhelske and Myroliubivka, small settlements located near the border of the region.
“They are also making gains in the south, George, incremental to be sure, but they are making gains in their counteroffensive down in the south in the Kherson Oblast and not too far from the city of Kherson,” White House national security spokesman John Kirby told George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
“They’re absolutely on the move here,” Kirby continued. “And like you’ve heard President Biden saying, we’re going to continue to make sure we can give them the weapons and capabilities they need to continue that kind of progress.”
Russia annexed Kherson Oblast and three other regions of Ukraine on Friday, a major escalation in the seven-month war that was met with condemnations by U.S. and Western officials.
Beyond the towns claimed by Zelensky, the Institute for the Study of War suggested Ukrainian forces also secured positions in Zolota Balka and Kreshchenivka, which are located in Kherson Oblast close to the Dnipro River.
“With numerically superior tank units in the direction of Zolota Balka and Oleksandrivka, the enemy managed to forge deep into our defenses,” said Igor Konashenkov, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman, during his daily briefing on Monday.
Although he acknowledged the Ukrainian gains, Konashenkov indicated that Russian forces are attempting to push back in the new region that Russia lays claim to.
“Russian troops have occupied a pre-prepared defensive line and continue to inflict massive fire damage,” he said.
Ukrainian forces made significant territorial gains in recent weeks as part of a counteroffensive, although those gains primarily occurred in Ukraine’s northeast as forces struggled to break through in the south near Kherson.
The counteroffensive pushed back Russian forces to the border in some northeastern areas, causing embarrassment for Russian President Vladimir Putin, who responded by calling up 300,000 reservists and threatening the West with nuclear weapons.
But the Ukrainians are now pressing ahead in other areas, making gains in regions now claimed by Russia.
Ukrainian forces over the weekend also retook Lyman, a key transportation hub located in the country’s east.
The gains have been supported by a flow of U.S. military equipment to Ukraine. Lawmakers approved another $12 billion in assistance for the country through a stopgap spending measure passed last week.
The Pentagon last week announced it would provide Ukraine with 18 additional High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), a crucial system that has helped the country’s military strike targets as far as about 50 miles away.