Ukrainian troops have recaptured more than 700sq km (270 square miles) of territory in the south and in the eastern Kharkiv region, where they advanced up to 50km into Russian lines, a Ukrainian general said on Thursday.
The comments by Brig Gen Oleksiy Gromov at a briefing were the most detailed public assessment so far of Ukraine’s counter-offensive. Kyiv has so far declined to disclose many details so as not to compromise the operation.
“During defence operations to recapture lost territory in the Kharkiv direction, since the start of the week, Ukraine’s armed forces … have penetrated into enemy’s lines by a depth of up to 50 km,” Brig Gen Gromov said.
He did not say which settlements had been recaptured in Kharkiv region.
“The total amount of territory returned to Ukrainian control in the Kharkiv and Pivdennyi Buh directions stands at over 700 square kilometres,” he said.
Pivdennyi Buh is a river that runs through the southern frontline city of Mykolaiv before discharging in the Black Sea.
He said that Ukrainian troops have advanced up to 3km on the Sloviansk front in the east and recaptured a settlement called Ozerne.
He singled out the role of Turkish-made Bayraktar drones. “Enemy infantry and motorised artillery units unprotected by air defence systems become easy prey for our Bayraktars, the quantity of which is always increasing, thanks to our volunteers,” he said.
Figures within the Russian military are said to be concerned that the counter-offensive will cut lines of communication between Russian forces in the Kharkiv region.
Analysts have said that the initial target of the offensive could be the city of Kupyansk, a key road hub for Russian supplies heading south from the border into eastern Ukraine.
Elsewhere, Ukraine’s top military chief has claimed responsibility for the attack on Russia’s Saki airbase in Crimea in the first official acknowledgment from Kviv since the strike destroyed at least nine Russian aircraft last month.
Ukraine’s commander-in-chief of the armed forces, Gen Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, gave a detailed assessment of the war to date in rare public comments published on Wednesday.
An opinion piece attributed in his name in Ukraine’s state news agency Ukrinform acknowledged rocket strikes on Russian air bases in annexed Crimea, including one that damaged the Saky military base in August.
Referring to the approaches Ukraine could adopt to gain advantage as the war rages on, Gen Zaluzhnyi cited the Crimea attack as an example. — Guardian