Ukraine says it has pushed Russian forces back up to 5 miles from the banks of Dnipro river
Ukraine said it had pushed Russian forces back three to eight kilometers, or around 3 to 5 miles, from the banks of the Dnipro river, which, if confirmed, would be a major breakthrough in Ukraine's lagging counteroffensive.
Ukrainian and Russian forces have been positioned on opposite sides of the river in Kherson after Russia retreated from the region's western part last year.
In recent weeks, Ukraine said it had crossed the river and gained "a foothold on several bridgeheads" on the eastern, or left bank, which Russian forces hold. Armored vehicles were reported to have crossed the river for the first time.
"Preliminary figures vary from three to eight kilometers, depending on the specifics, geography, and landscape design of the left bank," army spokeswoman Natalia Gumenyuk told Ukrainian television, AFP reported on Sunday.
She said that fighting was continuing, with "several tens of thousands" of Russian troops still in the area, who were continuing to fire artillery.
"We have a lot of work to do," Gumenyuk said.
Russia's defense ministry initially denied that Ukraine had made gains, but the Moscow-installed head of occupied Kherson, Vladimir Saldo, conceded this week that there were small groups of Ukrainian soldiers along the eastern bank. He promised a "fiery hell" of artillery in response, Reuters reported.
Ukraine's long-anticipated counteroffensive to take back Russian-occupied territory, which began in June, has so far failed to make any significant breakthroughs.
Military expert Oleksandr Kovalenko told media outlet RBK Ukraine that Ukraine's growing hold on the eastern bank "significantly reduces the mobility and capability of the Russian occupiers," per Reuters
While progress on the bank of the Dnipro was positive for Ukraine, its soldiers might struggle to maintain momentum against stiff Russian defenses.
Ukrainian troops told The Wall Street Journal that they were outnumbered 10 to one and were hunkered down in trenches and basements while hiding from Russian strikes.
"We need to be realistic about what can be achieved here," Franz-Stefan Gady, a military analyst who recently visited the front lines in Ukraine, told the WSJ.
"The terrain is extremely difficult, making it not only a challenge to steadily resupply forces but also generate the necessary momentum to conduct sustained offensive operations."