Intensified Fighting in South Ukraine: Kyiv suffers heavy loss – Putin

Putin - Russian Prime Minister

Ukraine witnessed a surge in the fighting in the southeastern parts, as Kyiv reportedly launched a major offensive. Russian President Vladimir Putin asserted a significant escalation of hostilities.

Over the past weeks, battles have flared up across the 1,500-kilometer front, with Ukraine mounting a counteroffensive, backed by Western-supplied weaponry and trained troops, against the Russian forces that invaded the region 17 months ago.

Putin commended the “heroism” of Russian soldiers in repelling attacks in Zaporizhzhia, in southeastern Ukraine, boasting that they had effectively dismantled Ukraine’s military equipment and inflicted heavy casualties on Kyiv’s forces.

The veracity of Putin’s claims remains challenging to verify independently. He made these statements during a summit of African leaders in St. Petersburg.

Putin Address African Leaders in St Petersburg

Ukrainian troops have recently intensified their commitment in the region, according to an anonymous Western official. However, specific details of their current efforts and strategies remain undisclosed.

The significance and nature of the fighting in southeastern Ukraine, and how it differs from previous attempts, remain uncertain. The Russian military has established extensive minefields and deployed combat aircraft and loitering munitions to counter Ukrainian advances.

Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar revealed that Ukrainian troops were advancing towards Melitopol in the Zaporizhizhia region. Seizing Melitopol near the Sea of Azov would be a major triumph for Ukraine, potentially disrupting the land corridor between Russia and the illegally annexed Crimean Peninsula, consequently splitting Russian forces and cutting off supply lines to units farther west.

Russian military bloggers indicated that the latest Ukrainian push was targeting the village of Staromaiorske, located near the border of Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia provinces. If the Russian defenses in this area falter, it could pave the way for Ukrainian forces to advance southward toward the coast.

This recent escalation follows a period of political and military turmoil in Russia during June, marked by a short-lived rebellion by Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the Wagner private military company. However, these mercenaries have reportedly withdrawn from the Ukrainian battlefield and relocated to Belarus before heading to Africa.

Amid the rising tension, U.S. officials, who have provided support to Kyiv, remain cautious in their response. U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin emphasized the difficulty and length of Kyiv’s effort to regain land seized by Russia since the invasion. Secretary of State Antony Blinken acknowledged the intensity of the battle but refrained from providing further details.

In a separate incident, a missile strike in Ukraine’s Odesa region resulted in the death of one civilian and inflicted further damage to the port infrastructure. Ukraine’s air force reported intercepting 36 Russian missiles launched from strategic bombers.

As the conflict continues, the international community closely monitors the unfolding events in southeastern Ukraine, with hopes for an eventual de-escalation of hostilities.