‘People have been waiting for this news for a long time’ What we know about Ukraine’s southern offensive
The Ukrainian army has announced the start of its long-awaited counteroffensive on its occupied southern regions. “The Ukrainian Armed Forces have begun offensive operations in many directions in the south of Ukraine, including in the Kherson region,” said Nataliya Humenyuk, a spokesperson for Ukraine’s Operational Command South, on Monday.
The country’s Kakhovka Operational Group reported that both the 109th regiment of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic and Russian air assault forces had withdrawn from their positions in the wake of the Ukrainian attacks. The Kakhovka group posted a video that appeared to show either a Russian or “Donetsk People’s Republic” fighter saying that Ukrainian forces had “broken through the first line of defense.” The breach was confirmed by sources who spoke to both Ukrainska Pravda and Hromadske, while journalist Andriy Tsaplienko reported that Humenyuk had confirmed to him that the Russian forces had retreated.
Alexey Matsulevich, head of the Odesa regional military administration, reported on Telegram that fighting for control of Kherson had begun, but deleted the post soon after. In addition, multiple Ukrainian Telegram channels cited Valery Zaluzhny, the commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, as saying that Ukraine's military had occupied the village of Sukhyi Stavok in the Kherson region, though the claim hasn't been confirmed or reported by official sources.
Ukrainian Presidential Advisor Mykhailo Podolyak called on Ukraine’s public figures not to make “sensational statements.” “I understand our hopes and dreams. But nonetheless, I suggest proceeding from a place of caution when making comments regarding any of our military activity,” he said. Humenyuk added that “every military operation requires silence.” “Understanding that people have waited for this kind of positive news for a very long time, we can report that some operations have indeed started. But moving forward, we ask you [...] not to seek out additional details,” she said.
Two American sources told CNN that the Ukrainian Armed Forces are working to create favorable conditions for a “significant counteroffensive.” According to the sources, “shaping operations” are standard practice before an offensive and include launching strikes on weapons depots, command centers, and other military targets in order to prepare the battlefield. The Ukrainian command chose to launch its offensive now in part because Russia wasn’t able to deploy as many units to the front as it previously anticipated, said CNN journalist Jim Sciutto on Twitter, citing an unnamed American official.
Kirill Stremousov, deputy head of the Russian-backed occupation authorities in Ukraine’s Kherson region, claimed that the reports of a Ukrainian offensive in the area were “fake.” “Nobody is advancing and nobody is retreating. That’s all a fantasy. Stay calm,” he said in a statement to TASS. “The West is demanding specific actions [from the Ukrainian authorities], and [Ukrainian President Volodymyr] Zelensky isn’t in a position to do anything, so they’re firing on civilians.”
Three Kherson residents told the independent Belarusian news outlet Zerkalo that there’s currently no fighting in the city. Still, they said, they heard more explosions than usual the previous night.
The Russian Defense Ministry is claiming that the Ukrainian offensive has already failed. According to the agency, the Ukrainian Armed Forces advanced in three directions in the Mykolaiv and Kherson regions but sustained “major losses.” “During the fighting, 26 Ukrainian tanks, 23 infantry combat vehicles, and nine other armored vehicles were destroyed, while two Su-25 aircraft were shot down. Enemy troops sustained more than 560 casualties. Another attempt by our opponent to launch an offensive has failed miserably,” said the ministry. The General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces didn’t include any information about the reported offensive in their evening report.
Update: Ukrainian Forces have liberated four villages in the Kherson region, a source from the Ukrainian army told CNN: Novodmitrivka, Tomyna Balka, Arkhanhelske, and Pravdyne. “We’ll see what happens next. Our target is Kherson,” said the source.