- By Lawrence Peter
- BBC News
The US government said that Ukrainian forces had made “significant progress” in their offensive against heavily fortified Russian positions in the south.
White House spokesman John Kirby said these gains were made in the past 72 hours south of Zaporizhia.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told CNN that Ukrainian forces were advancing, but it was a “tough fight”.
Russia claims to have taken control of strategic heights near the city of Kobyansk in northeastern Ukraine.
None of these claims have been independently verified.
Kirby said Kiev itself has acknowledged that progress in the south – which aims to carve up Russia’s land corridor to Crimea – has been slower than expected.
“They have had some success against the second line of Russian defences,” he added.
Earlier in the week, the Ukrainian military said it had captured the village of Ropotyn in the Zaporizhia region.
In the northeast, Russia has mobilized its forces to recapture the lands liberated by Ukraine east of Kharkiv.
In the south, Russia is believed to have built an advanced system of trenches and tunnels, which it defends with minefields, as well as artillery positions and so-called “dragon’s teeth” concrete anti-tank barriers.
Kiev launched its counterattack after obtaining more advanced weapons from its allies in the West and preparing offensive battalions.
But progress has been slow, and Kiev continues to urge NATO countries to deliver tanks, mine-clearing equipment and warplanes, particularly US-made F-16 fighter jets.
On Thursday, Kuleba expressed his anger at those who criticized the pace of Ukraine’s counterattack.
“I recommend all critics to shut up, come to Ukraine and try to free one square centimeter themselves,” he said during a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Spain.
Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Russian forces seized Crimea and much of Ukraine’s Donbass region in 2014.
And in recent weeks, Ukraine has launched its own attacks on mainland Russia. Russian officials said that three Ukrainian drones targeted the bridge connecting Crimea with the Russian mainland, which was destroyed in the early hours of Saturday morning.
President Putin told the pupils on Friday, at the start of the school year, that Russia’s victory in World War II proved their nation’s invincibility.
“I understood why we won the Great Patriotic War,” he said in a lecture aimed at promoting patriotism in schools. “It is impossible to defeat this kind of nation with this kind of attitude. We were absolutely invincible. We are the same now.”
The Kremlin’s so-called “important conversations” were introduced in schools after the start of the full-scale Russian invasion.
The Russian military also announced on Friday that it had put into combat service a new strategic nuclear missile system called Sarmat.
Long-range missiles have multiple warheads. Their prevalence has not been independently confirmed.
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