KYIV, June 19 (Reuters) – Ukraine said on Monday it had driven Russian forces out of an eighth village in its two-week-old counteroffensive and a defence official vowed Kyiv’s “biggest blow” lay ahead despite tough resistance from Moscow’s troops.
Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Maliar said Ukrainian forces had retaken Piatykhatky, a settlement on a heavily fortified part of the front line near the most direct route to the country’s Azov Sea coast.
This was part of an advance by Kyiv of up to seven km (4.3 miles) into Russian lines in two weeks, capturing 113 square km (44 square miles) of land.
“The enemy will not easily give up their positions, and we must prepare ourselves for a tough duel,” Maliar said on the Telegram messaging app. The military “are moving as they should have been moving. And the biggest blow is yet to come.”
She said the fiercest fighting was in the east and south of Ukraine. Separately, she said Ukraine’s military was preventing a Russian advance in the east where it concentrated its units, including air assault troops.
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in his nightly video address that Kyiv’s military was moving forward in some sectors and defending against intensified attacks in others. But the net outcome was favourable for Ukraine, he said.
“We have no lost positions, only liberated ones. And they have only losses,” he said.
Two slick videos released on Telegram by the Ukrainian armed forces showed what they said were attacks and advances by their forces in recapturing the village of Piatykhatky, including several strikes on Russian positions and a convoy. The video shows thick smoke rising from the area. Columns of Ukrainian armoured vehicles are seen advancing down a country road.
The video concluded with soldiers of the 128th separate assault brigade standing in front of a colonnaded building with Ukrainian flags and saying they have liberated the village.
Reuters was able to confirm the location of the video but could not independently verify the date.
The General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces wrote on Facebook that anti-aircraft units had shot down four cruise missiles and four Iranian-made drones in the last 24 hours.
It said Russia had shelled more than a dozen towns and villages in the Zaporizhzhia region, including Piatykhatky.
Reuters could not verify the battlefield claims.
The reported capture of the villages reflects the incremental nature of the gains so far for Ukraine along lines Moscow has spent months strengthening.
Piatykhatky is significant, however, as it lies around 90 km from the coast.
Zelenskiy said he would continue talks with Western allies to get weapons and ammunition to them as soon as possible.
Russia, hoping to dent Western resolve, said it had repelled numerous assaults and it released a video showing what its troops say is captured Western equipment, in this case a French-made tank reportedly seized in the eastern Donetsk region. It did not mention Piatykhatky.
Ukraine has acknowledged attacks along several parts of the 1,000-km-long front line in its long-anticipated counteroffensive to retake the 18% of its territory occupied by Russia, but carefully controls information for security reasons. Analysts say the main phase of the counteroffensive is yet to begin.
Both sides appear to have taken heavy losses in recent fighting and both say the other side’s are greater.
Separately, Ukraine Deputy Minister for Strategic Industries Sergiy Boyev told Reuters at the Paris Airshow on Monday that Ukraine is in talks with Western arms manufacturers to boost output of weapons, including drones, and possibly even in Ukraine.
The conflict has killed thousands of civilians, destroyed towns and cities and driven millions of people from their homes while exacerbating global inflation and reshaping security arrangements.
Russia says it invaded Ukraine to “denazify” it, an argument Ukraine and its Western allies call a pretext for a land grab.
Officials from two NATO member states said Moscow was redeploying some of its forces as it seeks to predict where Ukraine will strike.
British and Estonian intelligence officials said that Russia had been moving some forces east along the front line from areas south of the Dnipro river flooded by the destruction of the huge Kakhovka hydroelectric dam on June 6.
Russia and Ukraine have blamed each other for the unleashing of the vast reservoir. Flooding has destroyed homes and farmland along both sides of the front line in Kherson region. The death toll has risen to 52, with more than 11,000 people evacuated.
Source : Reuters