Ukrainian forces have secured a pivotal position on the eastern shore of the Dnipro River, a senior official said.
The claim of momentum in the Ukrainian military’s counteroffensive, made by President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s chief of staff in the United States on Tuesday, came as Kyiv presses the West to raise the supply of arms.
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“Against all odds, Ukraine’s Defense Forces have gained a foothold on the left (east) bank of the Dnipro,” Andriy Yermak told the Hudson Institute think tank in the US, as posted on Zelenskyy’s website.
The statement was the first official confirmation of Ukraine’s establishment of a foothold on the Dnipro’s east bank in the Kherson region. This opens up a potential route towards Crimea. The peninsula, which was annexed by Russia in 2014, has been the focus of Ukrainian attacks in recent weeks.
“Step by step, they are demilitarising Crimea. We have covered 70% of the distance. And our counteroffensive is developing,” Yermak told Hudson Institute.
Russian forces seized Ukraine’s southern Kherson region in the early days of the February 2022 invasion. However, late last year, they pulled out of the regional capital, also called Kherson, and left the Dnipro’s west bank.
Attacks have since been launched on Kherson and other towns from the east bank, soliciting a response from Ukraine.
A Ukrainian military spokesperson this month said Ukraine had achieved “not bad results” in pushing Russian troops to relocate. Unofficial accounts have noted Ukrainian advances.
In a highly unusual incident on Monday, two Russian state news agencies published alerts saying Moscow was moving troops to “more favourable positions” east of the Dnipro in Ukraine, only to withdraw the information minutes later.
In the past, Russia has sometimes used similar phrasing about moving troops to more advantageous positions to describe retreats.
The announcement of Ukraine’s southern foothold came as Zelenskyy also pointed to heavy Russian losses in the shattered eastern city of Avdiivka, which he said was undermining Moscow’s broader war goals.
Moscow’s forces have focused on eastern Ukraine since failing to advance on Kyiv in the first days of the February 2022 invasion. They have taken aim at Avdiivka since mid-October and officials from the town, which had a pre-war population of 32,000, say not a single building remains intact.
Zelenskyy, in an address on Tuesday night, said Russian assaults in the eastern Donetsk region, including Avdiivka, had been “very intense” but that Russia was rapidly losing manpower and equipment.
‘We need weapons’
Yermak, in his address to the Hudson Institute, said Russia’s strategy against Ukraine was “to outlast and out-endure the unity of democracies” and called on allies to provide more military aid to bolster Ukraine’s defence.
“We need weapons right now. Russia still has air superiority,” he told the gathering. “It still is capable of producing missiles due to circumvention of sanctions. Not to mention the Iranian drones and North Korean artillery rounds.”
The US has sent more than $46bn in military aid to Ukraine since Russia’s invasion. However, since the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war on October 7, conservative US lawmakers have expressed scepticism about further aiding Ukraine and advocated for redirecting funds to Israel.
Germany, another key Ukraine ally, recently announced plans to double its military aid to Ukraine to $8.6bn next year.