Russia was on Wednesday trying to reinforce on the southern front as a local official said Ukraine’s armed forces had broken through Moscow’s defenses in three places. As fighting raged for a third-consecutive day across the more than 100-mile stretch of front line in the south, Ukrainian officials claimed that their long-awaited counter-offensive had shown early signs of success. Columns of Ukrainian tanks and troops were seen travelling across unharvested fields while the sound of air raid sirens and explosions rang out in Kherson. Pro-Kremlin military bloggers on the Telegram messaging app said Ukraine had entered the previously occupied village of Sukhoy Stavok, in an advance of 3.7 miles, just north of the southern city.
Other reports suggested the village had changed hands multiple times amid heavy fighting, with the Russian side eventually retreating. In an early assessment of the counter-offensive, British military officials said Kyiv’s armed forces had succeeded in pushing Russia’s southern front line back “some distance” after penetrating the enemy’s weak defences. Footage shared on social media on Wednesday showed heavily armed men with Ukrainian blue tactical recognition armbands moving through a wheat field behind a series of tanks and armoured vehicles.
The post claimed the area had been heavily mined. Video also emerged of what appeared to be further long-range rocket strikes on the Antonovsky bridge in Kherson, and logistics hubs in the neighbouring towns of Nova Kakhovka and Beryslav. According to claims from both Russian and Ukrainian sources, the 1000-metre crossing over the Dnipro River, which Russia relies on to resupply the front line, was no longer suitable for crossing with even light vehicles. Western analysts said Ukrainian troops were seeking to secure a clear advantage in logistics by preventing Russia from resupplying across the Dnipro River.
Yuriy Sobolevskyi, the deputy head of Kherson’s regional council, said Ukrainian troops had enjoyed successes in Kherson, Beryslav and Kakhovka districts, but refused to elaborate. “Now is the time to support our armed forces… Now is not the time to talk about the specific successes of our lads,” he said. In its daily intelligence update, Britain’s Ministry of Defence said Ukraine’s armed forces had continued their assault on several axes against Russian-held positions in an operation to retake Kherson. “Ukrainian formations have pushed the front line back some distance in places, exploiting relatively thinly held Russian defences,” the MoD added on Wednesday, in what was the first Western acknowledgement of success in the operation. “In line with its doctrine, Russia will likely now attempt to plug the gaps in its line using pre-designated mobile reserve units.
These will likely include some of those from the Eastern Grouping of Forces.” For the reinforcement, British defence officials said Russia’s 3rd Army Corps, its first new large-scale formation since the war began, was still being pulled together from volunteers with “limited training”. Rybar, a widely read pro-Kremlin military Telegram channel, backed claims that Ukraine had made inroads into Russian-held territory in the Kherson Region. The group said Ukrainian had managed to break through at the village of Kostromka, north-east of Kherson, and had begun attacking towards the Nova Kakhovka-Davydiv Brid road, on the eastern banks of the Inhulets River. After Volodymyr Zelensky, the Ukrainian president, urged enemy troops to “run away” if they wanted to live, Kyiv on Wednesday proposed a special scheme for Russians seeking to surrender.
“Save yourself and leave,” Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s foreign minister said. “Lay down arms, surrender to Ukrainian forces, and get an opportunity to start a new life. “I am confident that this offer is worth making, because even if one Russian soldier lays down arms and decides to leave, it means saved Ukrainian lives and closer peace.” Despite apparent successes, Germany’s defence chief warned Ukraine not to underestimate Moscow’s military might. General Eberhard Zorn, the highest-ranking soldier of the Bundeswehr, said Russia could counteract Kyiv’s southern offensive by opening up a new front in the war elsewhere.
“The bulk of the Russian land forces may be tied down in Ukraine at the moment but, even so, we should not underestimate the Russian land forces’ potential to open a second theatre of war,” he said. Meanwhile, the UN nuclear watchdog’s planned visit to the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant was thrown into doubt as Russia narrowed access to the facility. The International Atomic Energy Agency was warned it would only be given access to Europe’s largest nuclear plant, which some fear could be the scene of a Chernobyl-style disaster, for just one day.