© Reuters. President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskiy holds a press conference during the NATO leaders summit in Vilnius, Lithuania July 12, 2023. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel
(Reuters) – President Volodymyr Zelenskiy warned Ukraine that Russia was putting all its resources into the campaign to stop Kyiv’s forces pressing their counteroffensive and a top general reported fresh advances on the southern front.
But Ukrainian military analysts argue that it will not be easy for Ukrainian forces in their bid to advance south.
Ukraine has launched a counteroffensive to reclaim swathes of land in eastern and southern Ukraine captured by Russian forces in their invasion launched in February 2022.
It focuses on capturing villages in the southeast en route to the Sea of Azov and areas near the town of Bakhmut in the east, which were taken by Russian troops in May after months of fighting.
Russian accounts say its troops have repelled Ukrainian attacks in the eastern region of Donetsk, including around Bakhmut.
“We must all understand very clearly, as clearly as possible, that Russian forces in our southern and eastern regions are doing everything they can to stop our soldiers,” Zelenskiy said in a video address late Friday after chairing a meeting with top commanders Friday.
“And every thousand meters we advance, every success of every combat brigade we should be grateful for.”
Reuters was unable to verify the battlefield report.
General Oleksander Tarnavskyi, commander of Ukrainian forces in the south, said after the meeting that his troops were “systematically removing the enemy from their positions”.
Enemy losses over the last 24 hours are equivalent to at least 200, he wrote on Telegram.
“In the south, the situation is very difficult for advancing towards Berdiansk,” military analyst Serhiy Hrabskyi told Ukraine NV radio, referring to a port on the Sea of Azov. Ukrainian troops had hoped to cut the land bridge Russian troops had built with the annexed Crimean peninsula.
“They are advancing on the village of Robotyne. The enemy is offering resistance to stop our advance south.”
The Russian Defense Ministry, in its daily report, said its troops had repulsed 16 Ukrainian offensives on its eastern front, including near the long contested town of Maryinka and in the strategic village of Klishchiivka, on the southern outskirts of Bakhmut.