Ukraine’s counteroffensive is making incremental gains in the southern Zaporizhia region


Ukrainian forces said they had penetrated the area “first line” of Russian strongholds in the Zaporizhia region, a sign that Kiev is drawing ever closer to Moscow’s sprawling network of fortified trenches along the southern front.

On Thursday, the Ukrainian military claimed that its units had advanced about two villages to the south and east of Ropotyn, a village in Zaporizhia that Kiev secured last week amid a grueling counteroffensive that is making additional gains.

On Thursday, the Army General Staff said: “In the direction of Novodanilivka-Novoprokopyevka, they succeeded in consolidating their positions, firing artillery at the identified enemy targets, and carrying out counter-battery operations.”

The testimonies reviewed by CNN highlight the many challenges facing Ukrainian forces trying to penetrate a dense system of Russian minefields, anti-tank barriers and extensive tunnels in parts of southern and eastern Ukraine.

News of the latest progress comes against the backdrop of reports that US and Western allies have noticed the slow pace of the counterattack. CNN reported earlier this month that the US was receiving increasingly “worrisome updates”.

A Ukrainian soldier walks past a destroyed Ukrainian tank near Ropotyn in Zaporizhia region, on August 25, 2023.
Ukrainian soldiers ride a tank near Ropotyn, a village that Kiev captured last week amid a slow and fierce counterattack against Russia's dense defense lines.

Russian military bloggers reported increased activity near the village of Verbov in southeastern Ukraine, but said Russian forces were resisting the Ukrainian advance.

Satellite images of the village of Solodka Balka – 7km (4 miles) south of Robotyn – showed steel-reinforced communication trenches, vehicle shelters and “dragon’s teeth” fortifications intended to block the Ukrainian advance.

Kiev has expanded its units towards the strategic town of Tokmak in recent weeks, which is a logistical center for Russian forces with a railway through which supplies are resupplied and fuel and ammunition depots are located.

The fighting escalated towards the northern outskirts of Novoprokopyevka, a small rural settlement about 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) south of Ropotyn and close to the Russian line of fortifications in Zaporizhia, according to the 46th Brigade fighting in the area.

“Bypassing the heights from the northeast made it possible to press on the enemy’s right flank and reach his first line of defense located on the heights to the south. Al-Liwaa’s Telegram channel said that the battles for the strongholds are coming.

The brigade said on Telegram that the units were also stationed on the western edge of the village of Verbov. The general added that the fighting is already taking place near the Russian defensive lines.

“(The Russians) are constantly counterattacking and actively defending – we are moving and putting pressure on the occupiers, but a month of fighting has shown that the enemy will not give up the territories they have captured – there is a lot of work ahead.”

Yevgeny Paletsky, the Russian-appointed official in control of the occupied parts of Zaporizhia, said two Ukrainian assault groups attempted to break through the defensive line on the outskirts of Verbov “and were destroyed.”

Meanwhile, well-known Russian military blogger Wargonzo said that Ukrainian forces have advanced towards Verbov from the west, but Russian units are “holding the defense on the outskirts of the settlement.”

On Thursday, Ukraine announced several Russian air strikes in the region.

The 46th Brigade also announced, on Monday, heavy losses in the area, amid fierce fighting on the ground and the continuous use of artillery by both sides.

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