New York Times says the Ukrainian military has begun its “main thrust” to breach the Russian defensive lines
Kiev has begun the “main thrust” of its counteroffensive against Russian forces and has deployed thousands of troops that had previously been held in reserve, a New York Times report has claimed, citing anonymous sources.
“Ukrainian officials have told US officials that the enlarged Ukrainian force would try to advance south through Russia’s minefields and other fortifications toward the city of Tokmak and, if successful, on to Melitopol, near the coast,” the NYT reported on Wednesday, citing two Pentagon officials. Many of the newly deployed soldiers were trained and equipped by Ukraine’s Western backers, according to the report.
The newspaper also cited interviews on Wednesday with Ukrainian forces who claimed they were “steadily pushing Russian troops back.” However, their progress has been “incremental, with no major breakthroughs. They have been slowed by minefields, and some said the biggest obstacles were withering artillery fire and airstrikes.”
Kiev’s forces “resumed intensive offensive operations” just south of Orekhov on Wednesday morning, the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement that evening. Despite the Ukrainian army launching a “massive” assault with three battalions backed by tanks, Russia’s 810th Marine Brigade, and 71st Motorized Rifle Regiment of the 42nd Motorized Rifle Division held their positions and repelled the Ukrainian advance, the ministry said.
During the battle, Ukraine lost 22 tanks, 10 infantry fighting vehicles, and more than 100 men, according to the ministry.
Nearby, Russian troops repelled an attack on the village of Rabotino, and used air and artillery power to hit Ukrainian units near Malaya Tokmachka, Yablokovo and Rabotino.
Ukrainian forces have lost tens of thousands of troops and thousands of pieces of heavy military hardware since the counteroffensive began in early June, according to the ministry.
The NYT said it was unable to verify Russian reports that the Ukrainian assaults had been stymied, but the newspaper did acknowledge that “little has gone according to plan” during the counteroffensive.
Kiev’s goal is to push south toward the Black Sea and sever the land bridge to Crimea – cutting off Russia’s ground access to Kherson Region – or at least advance far enough to bring the strategically key peninsula within artillery range. Russia has relied on Crimea as the base for its Black Sea fleet and a key supply hub for its forces in Donbass.
All of these locations sit within the formerly Ukrainian region of Zaporozhye, where Kiev’s forces have been attempting for almost two months to penetrate Russia’s multi-layered defensive lines and push south to the Black Sea. If Ukraine were to succeed in this gambit, Russia’s land access to Kherson Region and Crimea would be severed.
However, Ukraine’s efforts have thus far been in vain. Russia has heavily mined the no-man’s-land in front of its defensive lines in this area, and early attempts to push through these minefields have proven disastrous for the Ukrainian military. Photos and videos from the beginning of Ukraine’s counteroffensive in June showed lines of destroyed tanks and armored vehicles sitting in minefields between Malaya Tokmachka and Rabotino, burning after they hit mines, and being targeted by artillery and Russian helicopters.
Ukraine’s 47th Mechanized Brigade – a NATO-trained unit – reportedly lost 30% of its US-supplied Bradley Infantry Fighting vehicles in two weeks near Orekhov and Rabotino, while the 33rd Mechanized Brigade lost nearly a third of its 32 German-made Leopard tanks in the same area in a single week.
Across the entire frontline, Ukraine’s summer counteroffensive has already cost Kiev 26,000 troops and 3,000 pieces of heavy military hardware since June, according to the latest figures from Moscow. Russian President Vladimir Putin has described the Ukrainian operation as “suicidal.”
Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky has admitted to having difficulties, saying the counteroffensive is developing “slower than desired.” Amid reports that his Western backers are displeased at the pace of the offensive, Zelensky has attempted to shift the blame for the apparent failure to the West, saying that Ukraine did not receive enough munitions, weaponry, or training to succeed.