Ukraine breaks through major Russian defense lines as counteroffensive picks up pace

In World

Ukrainian forces have broken through major Russian lines of defense in the southeastern region, where a slow counteroffensive has struggled for months to make rapid progress but could soon see a major breakthrough.

Ukraine is moving deeper into the Zaporizhzhia region after securing a major foothold past Russian lines, advancing forward in the direction of towns that could anchor troops even more in the southeast: Verbove and Novoprokopivka.

The general staff of Ukraine’s armed forces reported Wednesday that troops have succeeded in a march toward both towns, strengthening their position and firing waves of artillery at Russian lines.

Ukraine may also have pierced the first line of defenses of what is known as the Surovikin line, named for the infamous Russian Gen. Sergei Surovikin who ordered construction of thick defenses, such as anti-tank obstacles and mine fields, ahead of Kyiv’s counteroffensive operation.

George Barros, a Russia analyst at the Institute for the Study of War, shared geolocated images of Ukrainian forces just outside of Verbove — but cautioned that they did not mean the military had breached the Surovikin line of defense.

“The available evidence does not mean this is a ‘confirmed breach’ of the Surovikin line,” he wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter. “Ukrainian forces very well may have breached it, but we need more evidence.”

Popular Russian military blogger Rybar confirmed that Ukraine is advancing toward Verbove, writing that forces were conducting “massive shelling of the forward positions of Russian troops” in the town and going “on the offensive again.”

“The Ukrainian command intends to concentrate its efforts on enveloping Verbove from the west and reaching the flank of Russian troops to block supply routes in the village,” he said on Telegram.

Another popular Russian military blogger publishing under the Telegram channel Voenkor Kotenok said in Verbove there has not been a breakthrough and Ukraine is “suffering heavy losses in men and equipment.”

Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar wrote troops a little south from Verbove were making progress toward the Novoprokopivka direction.

Since the capture last week of Robotyne, a key village in the southeastern Zaporizhzhia region, Ukraine is advancing more quickly after more than two months of slogging through Russian defenses at an unexpectedly slow pace.

The main objectives are to take the town of Tokmak and, further south from that, the city of Melitopol. The goal is to cut off the land bridge connecting mainland Russia to the Crimean Peninsula.

If Ukraine can liberate both Novopropivka and Verbove, it could then surround the town of Tokmak.

Although Ukraine still faces an array of fortifications and Russian defenses, the last two weeks of faster-paced progress are raising hopes in the West of a real breakthrough.

Ukrainian troops are also pushing in other directions for the counteroffensive, around Bakhmut in the eastern Donetsk region, in the southern Kherson region and north of Robotyne toward the town of Staromlynivka.

Russia is moving forward with a counteroffensive of its own toward the cities of Kupyansk and Lyman in the northeast, but forces have faced stiff resistance from Ukraine. If pressure from Kyiv in the south continues, it may have to redirect troops to provide reinforcements.

Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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