Ukraine claims it has broken through Russian lines in a major new counter-offensive in the south as Kyiv forces go on the attack against the invading troops.
The ‘Kakhova’ Ukrainian military group said it had seen ‘the retreat’ of pro-Russian separatist fighters from their positions in Kherson.
Russian forces seized Kherson on March 3, the first major city to fall following Putin’s barbaric invasion.
The southern military command announced today they had carried out the long-awaited manoeuvre, reflecting Kyiv‘s growing confidence as Western military aid flows in.
‘Today there was a powerful artillery attack on enemy positions in … the entire territory of the occupied Kherson region,’ Sergey Khlan, a local deputy and adviser to the regional governor told Ukraine’s Pryamyi TV channel.
‘This is the announcement of what we have been waiting for since the spring – it is the beginning of the de-occupation of Kherson region.’
Ukraine has gone on the attack and launched a counter-offensive to strike back at Russian forces in the south (pictured: Ukrainian servicemen in Donetsk yesterday)
Khlan said Ukrainian troops now had ‘the advantage’ on the southern front.
Several strikes in recent weeks have targeted bridges in the region, in a bid to hamper logistics for the Russian military.
In late July, Khlan said the region would be recaptured by Kyiv’s forces by September.
Southern command spokesperson Natalia Humeniuk said that Ukraine’s recent strikes on Russia’s southern logistical routes had ‘unquestionably weakened the enemy,’ adding that more than 10 Russian ammunition dumps had been hit over the last week.
However, she declined to be drawn into giving more details about the new offensive.
‘Any military operation needs silence,’ she said, adding that Russia’s forces in the south are ‘rather powerful’ and have been built up over a long time.
Russia rapidly captured swathes of Ukraine’s south near the Black Sea coast, including Kherson, in the early phase of the war in stark contrast to its failed attempt to capture the capital Kyiv.
Ukraine has been using sophisticated Western-supplied weapons to hit Russian ammunition dumps and wreak havoc with supply lines.
Humeniuk told a briefing on Monday that Ukraine had struck more than 10 such ammunition dumps in the past week, adding they had ‘unquestionably weakened the enemy’.
She declined to give details of the counter-offensive, saying Russian forces in southern Ukraine remained ‘quite powerful’.
Communal workers clean the debris of a damaged building after a rocket shelling downtown Kharkiv today
The governor of Ukraine’s Russian-annexed Crimea Peninsula, Sergei Aksyonov, dismissed the announcement of a counter-offensive on Telegram as ‘another fake of Ukrainian propaganda’. Crimea is adjacent to the Kherson region.
The news came as a team from the U.N. nuclear watchdog headed to Ukraine to inspect the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant – captured by Russian forces in March but still run by Ukrainian staff – that has become a hotspot in the war.
Moscow and Kyiv have traded accusations of shelling in the vicinity of the nuclear plant, Europe’s largest and close to frontlines in the war, amid fears of a radiation disaster in a country still haunted by the 1986 Chornobyl disaster.
The IAEA said the mission would assess physical damage, evaluate the conditions in which staff are working at the plant and ‘determine functionality of safety & security systems’. It would also ‘perform urgent safeguards activities’, a reference to keeping track of nuclear material.
The Kremlin said on Monday the IAEA mission was ‘necessary’ and urged the international community to pressure Ukraine to reduce military tensions at the plant.
The United Nations, the United States and Ukraine have called for a withdrawal of military equipment and personnel from the nuclear complex to ensure it is not a target. But the Kremlin again ruled out vacating the site.
A Russian serviceman fires a man-portable anti-tank guided missile ‘Kornet’ at an undisclosed location in Ukraine
Russian servicemen stand in position during fights for the village Blagodatnoye, Mykolayiv region
With fears mounting of a nuclear accident, Zaporizhzhia authorities are handing out iodine tablets and teaching residents how to use them in case of a radiation leak.
Earlier, Ukraine’s military reported shelling of nine more towns on the opposite side of the Dnipro from the plant.
Russia’s defence ministry said its forces had shot down a Ukrainian drone that was trying to attack the nuclear power station, Russian news agencies reported. It said there was no serious damage and radiation levels were normal.
Reuters could not independently verify the reports.
Two of the plant’s reactors were cut off from the electrical grid last week due to shelling.
Ukrainian state nuclear company Energoatom said it had no new information about attacks on the plant.
In the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine, Russian forces shelled military and civilian infrastructure near Bakhmut, Shumy, Yakovlivka, Zaytsevo, and Kodema, Ukraine’s military said early on Monday.
Russian strikes killed eight civilians in Donetsk province on Sunday, its governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said.
Russia denies targeting civilians.