Ukrainians are advancing on two fronts, fighting Russian forces to the east and south

The Ukrainian military is steadily pushing back Russian forces across two heavily fortified fronts, trying to encircle weary Russian troops while retaking territory claimed by Vladimir Putin.

Some heavy Ukrainian armor was en route to the eastern Donbass region, where troops withdrew from Lyman, a railway junction recaptured three days ago, to support a steady advance toward the city of Lysyhansk, which was held by Russia for more than three months .

About 600 km south, Ukrainian soldiers forced well-entrenched Russian troops into what one US official described as a “defensive crouch.” Heavy fighting continued in towns such as Dudkhany, key stops on the way to the shipbuilding city of Kherson, which fell into Russian hands days after February’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

The two simultaneous advances have given Ukraine broad strategic territories and demonstrated its ability to reuse captured Russian weapons and newly arrived Western weapons against a weary enemy still awaiting newly mobilized troops.

Ukrainian officials have been reluctant to discuss operational details. But Western allies briefed on the advance have described the operations targeting individual Russian formations stretching long distances, with an overwhelming force moving swiftly through the night.

“Near Kherson, we continue to see deliberate and calibrated operations by Ukrainians as they continue their offensive,” a senior US military official said. “That [Russians] are obviously fighting, but they are being defensive.”

In the east, the Ukrainian military is “attacking the comparatively easier targets to take an initiative,” said another Western diplomat, avoiding sending more troops to get bogged down in towns like Bakhmut, where they have lined up for months without much Russian artillery Effect.

Russia is attempting to bolster its frontline forces with what Putin calls a “partial” mobilization of the army’s reserves.

Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said on Tuesday that Russia had already called up 200,000 troops.

However, the measure has proved deeply unpopular domestically, prompting hundreds of thousands of people to flee the country and leaving the Kremlin to shift the blame to local officials.

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Movement on both fronts has been grueling, with no clear updates on casualties on either side. This contrasts with a counter-offensive in the north-east last month, in which the Ukrainians pushed back almost all Russian forces to the border within days. “In the Northeast, Ukrainians moved through Russian defenses like Swiss cheese, in contrast to the South, where it will be more difficult,” said a second US military official.

Ukraine’s southern offensive against Kherson has clearly “gained some momentum,” according to a Western official, adding that even if it became militarily untenable for Russian forces, it was “unlikely that the Russian leadership would sanction a full withdrawal.” . . because of political reasons”.

As a result, the official added, the “situation in the south may become increasingly chaotic” as an estimated 20,000 Russian soldiers on the west bank of the Dnipro may be “desperate”. . . with your back to the river”.

The backlash proved inevitable on Russian state television, which has sought to blame Russia’s losses on Western support for Ukraine.

“Why are we going meter by meter when they are advancing village by village? Why are things better for them now?” Olga Skabeyeva, a news talk show host, asked on Tuesday.

Igor Girkin, a former intelligence officer who led Russia’s first invasion of Donbass in 2014 and was highly critical of the army’s leadership in the invasion, said Tuesday that Ukraine “had the advantage in everything and even used aviation” in the South Front, adding that there were reports of further progress by Ukraine in the east.

Russian forces on both fronts “are exhausted,” said Serhiy Kazan, a Defense Ministry adviser, after months of Ukrainian attacks on their command centers, supply lines and weapons caches by US-supplied Himars, guided missiles that reached deep behind front lines.

“They are not working in a coordinated manner because we chose the right tactic to destroy their communications and supply lines,” Kuzan said.

The Ukrainian advance came as Putin prepared Tuesday to legally sign the annexation of four Ukrainian territories into the Russian Federation. Ukrainian troops have already pushed the front line deep into two of these areas and are gaining momentum as Russia struggles to train, arm and mobilize newly drafted troops.

US intelligence has not seen any “large-scale” movement of Russian forces despite recent battlefield casualties, an official said. The only part of the country where Russia was currently launching an offensive was Bakhmut in the mineral-rich eastern Donbass region.

https://www.ft.com/content/e01e6a33-aa70-46bc-8464-c68a0f0970ef Ukrainians are advancing on two fronts, fighting Russian forces to the east and south

Adam Bradshaw

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