Ukraine has announced the liberation of three southeast villages, marking the first triumphs of its long-awaited counter-offensive. Ukrainian troops were seen celebrating in the adjacent settlements of Blahodatne and Neskuchne in the Donetsk region, as shared on social media.
The Deputy Defence Minister of Kyiv indicated that Makarivka, a nearby settlement, was also captured. On the previous day, President Volodymyr Zelensky confirmed the launch of the counter-offensive. These victories, the first following his statement, are not the first successful retakes by Ukrainian forces, which began making advancements in the country’s south on Monday.
Meanwhile, Moscow has not yet recognized the fall of these villages, continuing to report that it is repelling Ukrainian advances in the region.
In related news, Ukraine claims Russia has demolished another dam in the Zaporizhzhia region. This follows the Monday destruction of the significant Kakhovka dam, which resulted in substantial flooding and mass relocations. On Sunday, President Zelensky stated that 4,000 individuals had been relocated due to this situation.
Ukrainian officials attribute the dam destruction to Russian forces, who have maintained control since February 2022. Valeriy Shershen, a Ukrainian military spokesperson, said that the Russian troops deliberately targeted a second dam near Novodarivka village, causing flooding along the Mokri Yaly river banks.
The intention behind these actions, according to Mr. Shershen, is to impede Ukraine’s advancement towards areas under Russian control. Despite these allegations, Russia has denied its involvement in the Kakhovka dam’s destruction, instead blaming Ukraine.
In a Telegram video, Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Maliar stated that Ukrainian forces also captured the village of Makarivka. According to an army spokesperson, these are the first localized victories of the counter-offensive. Despite their strategic importance, the captured towns are relatively small, with Blahodatne having a pre-war population of just 1,000.
Further, speculations have surfaced suggesting Kyiv’s intention to recapture the port city of Mariupol and break the land bridge between occupied Crimea and Donetsk. Ukrainian troops are also reported to have made advancements near the devastated town of Bakhmut, known for its fierce battle between Ukrainian and Russian forces.
Ukraine’s intelligence head, Kyrylo Budanov, released a cryptic video emphasizing the counter-offensive’s clandestine nature, saying, “Plans love silence.” Despite this secrecy, the US-based Institute for the Study of War (ISW) suggested that Ukraine’s forces attacked at least four front-line areas.
However, Ukraine’s attempts to infiltrate Russian fortifications have failed, leading to the loss of several newly acquired American-made Bradley fighting vehicles. Nevertheless, reports indicate that Ukrainian forces have breached the front lines in mechanized attacks, deploying German Leopard-2 tanks.
Lastly, near the Ukrainian border in the Belgorod region of Russia, rail traffic was disrupted due to a freight train derailment. The area has recently experienced drone strikes, shelling, and cross-border incursions. Further north, in the Kaluga region, two drone crashes were reported – one near the village of Strelkovka and the other in a forest.