HomeWorldLive updates: Advancing in eastern Ukraine, Russia fighting in the south

Live updates: Advancing in eastern Ukraine, Russia fighting in the south

Credit…Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

While Russia relies on overwhelming destructive force to advance a mile or two a day in eastern Ukraine, Ukrainian soldiers fighting some 400 miles to the south have been constantly working to undermine front-line Russian positions in a expanse of steppes. and swamps.

Fighting is fierce on both fronts, and how the two campaigns play out is critical to understanding where the war stands, as concern grows that a protracted conflict will bring new economic costs to Ukraine’s allies.

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia said last week that he thought he would wait for the West. While the Russian leader rarely acknowledges Russian losses or defeats, military analysts said the beating his army has taken raises questions about whether he can sustain extensive offensive operations after its campaign to capture Luhansk province ends.

Russia has committed most of its combat forces to the capture of Lysychansk, the last urban center of Lugansk still controlled by the Ukrainian government, and it could fall at any moment.

Russia has sent thousands of additional troops east in recent weeks to bolster its offensive in neighboring Donetsk province, where it will once again likely try to overwhelm heavily fortified Ukrainian positions with its vast array of artillery, missiles and air power, even if his ground forces are reduced.

How diminished each army is after more than four months of war is an open question. Kyiv publishes only broad estimates of its losses, and Moscow says practically nothing.

British defense chief Ben Wallace said last week that 25,000 Russian soldiers had been killed since the war began. The number, which could not be independently confirmed, is the highest estimate provided by a senior Western official. The Ukrainian government has acknowledged that it has suffered staggering losses, with hundreds of victims every day.

Even if Russia is able to push deeper into Donetsk, its military has struggled to maintain an advance along multiple lines of attack in different parts of a country that is about the size of Texas.

The Russians’ defeat last week on Snake Island in the Black Sea, where their troops were forced to withdraw under sustained bombardment from Ukraine, underscored how reliant the Russians are on their superiority in heavy weapons.

Credit…Maxar Technologies/Via Reuters

With its forces reduced, Russia has been trying for months to strengthen its defensive positions in the south, where Ukraine has retook parts of the Kherson region west of the Dnieper River that Russia captured earlier in the war.

The Ukrainian military has said that the Russians have been pushed out of perimeter defensive positions in several places and that Ukrainian soldiers are operating within 20 miles of the city of Kherson. Senior US defense department officials said last week that the Ukrainians were not only retaking villages, but also showing the ability to hold reclaimed ground.

But military analysts have warned that despite Ukraine’s gains in the south, it is unlikely that they will be able to mount a broad offensive and advance any time soon on the city of Kherson, the only provincial capital to fall to the Russians.

Right now, Ukrainian forces are counterattacking north and south of the city. At the same time, insurgents inside Kherson have intensified a campaign to assassinate Russian deputy leaders and aid the Ukrainian military by engaging in sabotage operations and helping fire directly at Russian targets.

On Thursday, the Ukrainian army command in the south said its forces had launched missile and artillery strikes against 150 targets, killing more than 40 Russian soldiers and destroying a large number of Russian artillery and armored vehicles. The claims could not be independently confirmed, but data from NASA satellites tracking the fires noted activity on the southern front.

At the same time, battles raged on the ground, the two armies fought in the skies.

Ukraine said last week that it had repulsed an assault by a group of Russian attack helicopters on the northern Kherson region using man-portable anti-aircraft missile systems. At the same time, the Ukrainian Air Force said it launched seven airstrikes, including on a Russian command post and two ammunition depots.

On Friday, the Ukrainian military said two Ukrainian helicopters had targeted enemy military manpower and equipment in the village of Bilozerka, less than 10 miles from the city of Kherson.

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