- Written by Yaroslav Lukiev
- BBC News
Russian officials and military bloggers said that the Ukrainian military launched attacks on the occupying Russian forces in the main southern region of Zaporizhia.
They say Ukrainian forces – backed by tanks, artillery and drones – are trying to advance south of the town of Orekyev for the second night in a row.
A senior Ukrainian defense official said the enemy was on “active defence”.
Many military experts said that the long-awaited Ukrainian counterattack would be Zaporizhia.
They argue that Kiev is trying to regain access to the Sea of Azov, splitting the Russian forces occupying the region into two separate groups.
This will not only weaken Russia’s combat capability, but also eliminate a land bridge to Crimea, the southern peninsula illegally annexed by Russia in 2014.
Ukraine had been planning a counterattack for months, but wanted as long as possible to train troops and receive advanced military equipment from Western allies.
The government has deliberately said little about its plans, but its forces are now scanning Russian positions at several points along the front line, looking for signs of weakness.
Meanwhile, Russian attacks on Ukraine continue. Overnight, new strikes were launched with cruise missiles and drones, and falling debris killed at least one person in Zhitomir, west of the capital, Kiev.
Heavy fighting in the south
Russia captured most of the Zaporizhzhia region shortly after President Vladimir Putin ordered a full-scale invasion in February 2022. However, the regional capital, the city of Zaporizhzhia, is controlled by Ukraine.
Recent heavy fighting in the area continued into the night, with several pro-Kremlin Russian military bloggers reporting late Thursday that Ukraine had resumed attacks, noting the movement of armored personnel carriers and drones directing artillery fire.
Vladimir Rogov, the local official appointed by Russia, said Russian forces were holding their positions amid “active fighting” toward the city of Tokmak, which is seen as a key target for Ukraine as it seeks to advance into the Sea of Azov.
It is difficult to verify competing claims on both sides. Earlier on Thursday, Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar said Russian forces were “currently engaged in active defense” in Zaporizhia, and claimed that progress was being made around the eastern city of Pakhmut, which has been largely destroyed in months of fighting.
Zaporizhzhia is also home to the largest nuclear power plant in Europe, which is located in an area controlled by Russian forces.
The station continues to receive cooling water from the Nova Kakhovka Dam reservoir on the Dnipro River, despite the destruction of the dam on Tuesday, which led to a decrease in the water level in the reservoir and flooding large areas downstream of the dam.
But the resulting emergency threatens the region’s water supply, where the World Health Organization has also warned of an outbreak of cholera.
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