Ukrainian troops ‘break through Russian defences in key battleground’
Ukraine’s forces have broken through Russian defences in the key town of Verbove, according to Kyiv’s general leading the country’s counteroffensive. Oleksandr Tarnavskiy told US media that the advance was still underway, in the latest indication that Ukraine is making in-roads on the southern front. ‘On the left flank (near the village of Verbove) we have a breakthrough, and we continue to advance further,’ he told CNN in an interview released Friday.
Progress had been ‘not as fast as it was expected – not like in the movies about the Second World War,’ he added, but said it was key ‘not to lose this initiative. And, well, not to lose it in practice, with actions.’ The reported breakthrough came as Kyiv said that senior Russian navy commanders had been among dozens killed or wounded in a missile attack on Moscow’s Black Sea Fleet headquarters in Crimea.
A Ukrainian military source told the BBC the attack on Sevastopol was carried out using Storm Shadow missiles, which are supplied by Britain and France . Ukraine’s army said the strike had happened during ‘a meeting of the Russian navy’s leadership’. Kyiv’s intelligence chief Kyrylo Budanov said the attack killed ‘at least nine people’, including generals, in comments to Voice of America. ‘The details of the attack will be revealed as soon as possible and the result is dozens of dead and wounded occupants, including senior fleet commanders,’ the Ukrainian army said.
Russia has said one of its servicemen is missing after the attack. Ukraine launched its counteroffensive to claw back territory from Russian forces in June. Progress has been slow, with much of the territory heavily mined. But Kyiv has in recent weeks reported making strategic advances in the Zaporizhzhia region. And Tarnavskiy did not accept that Ukraine’s push could be further slowed in the coming winter months. ‘The weather can be a serious obstacle during advance, but considering how we move forward, mostly without vehicles, I don’t think (it) will heavily influence the counteroffensive,’ he said.
Mykhailo Podolyak, an aide to President Volodymyr Zelensky, spelt out Kyiv’s position on the prospects of a long, drawn-out war. ‘Are the Ukrainian people happy about the prospect of a long war of attrition?’ he wrote Saturday on X, formerly Twitter. ‘Absolutely not. We are following this path only because there is no other way today.’ Tarnavskiy said the counteroffensive’s success depended not only on what happens on the front, but also on ‘destroying command centres’ that create ‘a mess on the battlefield’.
Strikes on Crimea, annexed by Russia in 2014, improved morale for Ukrainian troops, he added. ‘It helps us, but it also gives us hope for the future.’ Meanwhile on Monday, a major ammunition depot was blown-up in Russian-occupied Ukraine in a suspected air-launched missile attack by Kyiv’s forces. The giant explosion rocked Sorokyne, also known as Krasnodon, in the eastern Luhansk region, some 86 miles from the current frontline.
A large smoke mushroom appeared in the sky, as a huge Russian stockpile of explosives at the Yunost plant ignited in a giant inferno. The plant formerly produced specialist electrical parts for missiles and rockets but its manufacturing capacity was moved to Russia and reports said it had been turned into a significant ammunition depot supplying Vladimir Putin’s forces. Some accounts said there were several explosions. Videos record children screaming at a nearby school, and parents rushed to collect them as several schools were evacuated. Windows were shattered in nearby houses and apartment blocks.
One local resident said: ‘My hands are shaking as I am filming this. There was such a strong explosion.’ The attack is seen as a plane-launched missile, and there had been warnings of the Ukrainian air force in the area which has been quiet so far in the war. The area came under Russian control in 2014 when pro-Putin forces took over large areas of Luhansk and Donetsk regions of Ukraine.
Zelensky was headed for home after addressing the United Nations and talks in Washington with the US Congress and President Joe Biden, who pledged the imminent arrival of US tanks to bolster Ukraine’s arsenal. He also got a pledge of more funding from Canada after addressing the parliament in Ottawa. The Ukrainian leader took to X on Saturday to announce he had met Sudan’s army chief and de facto ruler general Abdel Fattah al-Burhan during a stopover in Ireland. ‘I’m grateful to Sudan for its constant support for Ukraine sovereignty and territorial integrity,’ Zelensky said, at a time when Kyiv is seeking to counter growing Russian influence in Africa.
The two leaders talked of ‘common security challenges, particularly the activities of illegal armed groups financed by Russia’. Zelensky also said he made a brief halt in the Polish city of Lublin during the afternoon to decorate two Polish volunteers. Western powers through their support for Ukraine are ‘de facto’ fighting against Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Saturday, as Kyiv claimed fresh advances on the ground.
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