Ukraine today launched strikes against Russian forces in the key region of southern Zaporozhzhia and on the eastern front, a Russian official said, in what observers believe could be the start of the long-awaited Kiev offensive.
Ukraine has offered no confirmation, but expectations have been building for months that its forces, bolstered by Western weapons and training, would launch a counter-offensive in an attempt to retake land held by Russian forces.
Russian pro-war bloggers today reported intense battles on the Zaporizhzhia front, near the city of Orikhiv, around the midpoint of the “land bridge” linking Russia to the Crimean peninsula, considered one of the main potential Ukrainian targets.
“At the moment, active fighting is taking place in the region between Orekhovo and Tokmak,” Vladimir Rogov, an official with the Russian occupation authorities, wrote on the Telegram messaging service, referring to a town known in Ukrainian as Orikhiv.
Alexander Sladkov, a correspondent for the Russian media, wrote on Telegram about “heavy fighting” in the area.
Ukrainian soldiers run during a combat operation at the frontline near Kreminna, Luhansk region, Ukraine, on Thursday.
A Ukrainian serviceman fires a rocket launcher during a military training exercise not far from the front line in the Donetsk region on Thursday.
‘The enemy is making incredible efforts, attacks. In vain. Our forces hold. The front line is stable,’ he wrote.
The information could not be independently verified and therefore it was impossible to assess the degree to which the Ukraine operation was ongoing.
Ukraine’s military only said that “the adversary remains on the defensive” in Zaporizhzhia, in a Facebook post. He said he destroyed four missiles and 10 drones, out of about 20 that Russia had fired at “military installations and critical infrastructure.”
The fighting comes as the humanitarian and environmental cost increased after the destruction of the Kakhovka dam unleashed destructive flooding in a different part of southern Ukraine.
Russia said Thursday that its forces had fought a two-hour battle with Ukrainian troops in the early morning in the Zaporizhzhia region, which borders flood-hit areas.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said the Ukrainian offensive involved 1,500 soldiers and 150 armored vehicles.
“The enemy was stopped and withdrew after heavy losses,” he said.
Ukrainian officials have said their forces are ready for a long-awaited counteroffensive, but there will be no formal announcement when it begins.
In its few comments, Ukraine has reported gains of territory in the east around the town of Bakhmut, which Russian forces captured last month after nearly a year of the deadliest ground combat in Europe since World War II.
But Kiev has said virtually nothing about the southern front, which is widely assumed to be the focus of its main attack as it tries to push towards the coast and cut off Russia’s access to Crimea.
In his late-night video speech, delivered on a train after a visit to the floodplain in the south, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy thanked Ukrainian troops and repeated earlier claims of success in Bakhmut, but did not elaborate.
We see every detail. But it’s not the time to talk about it today,’ she said.
Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar described heavy fighting in the east, where she said Ukrainian troops had mainly repulsed Russian attacks.
On the southern front, he only said that the battles for the settlement of Velyka Novosilka were continuing and that Russian troops were organizing an “active defense” in Orikhiv.
A Ukrainian tank fires at Chasiv Yar, the site of fierce battles with Russian forces in Ukraine on Wednesday.
Ukraine has been attacking targets deep within Russian-controlled territory for weeks in preparation for its attack.
The initial days of the counteroffensive have been overshadowed this week by a humanitarian disaster following the destruction of the Kakhovka dam that holds back the waters of the Dnipro river that divides Ukraine.
Thousands of people have been forced to evacuate flooded homes in the war zone, vast nature reserves have been destroyed and the destruction of irrigation systems is likely to paralyze agriculture in much of southern Ukraine for decades.
Emergency services rushed to rescue people trapped in the flooding waters of the Dnipro.
Ukrainian authorities said water levels in a reservoir that had been created by the Kakhovka dam had fallen “below the critical point of 12.7 meters (42 feet).”
They said the reservoir could no longer supply homes or cooling ponds at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the largest in Europe.
However, on Thursday night, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said the nuclear plant was still receiving water from the reservoir after the dam was damaged.
The plant’s six reactors have been shut down but still need cooling water to ensure there is no nuclear disaster.
Meanwhile, Ukraine asked Europe to double power supply to two gigawatts.
Ukraine accuses Russia, whose forces control the dam area, of blowing up the dam, while Russia accuses Ukraine of attacking it with artillery. Ukrhydroenergo, the operator of the dam, said it was most likely being mined from within.
kyiv said on Friday that it had intercepted a phone call showing that Russian forces controlling the dam had blown it up. Moscow says Ukraine sabotaged it.
Western countries say they are still gathering evidence, but Ukraine would have no reason to inflict such a devastating disaster on itself, especially just as its forces were moving to attack.
The emergency service has warned that the flood water has released land mines that pose a threat to the civilian population.
The government has also sounded the alarm about the environmental impact, calling it a ‘crime of ecocide’.
I am Rakesh Sharma, I associated with Elite News as an Editor, since 2021. I take care of all the news operations like content, budget, hiring and policy making.