Ukraine has said it has broken through in Verbove in the southern Zaporizhzhia region, capping off a period of morale-boosting gains by Kyiv in the fourth month of its counteroffensive on the battlefield and by the sea.
The general leading Ukraine’s counteroffensive along the southern front line, Oleksandr Tarnavsky, told CNN that his forces had made a breakthrough in the strategically important town of Verbove in the Zaporizhzhia region. It lies east of Robotyne, which Ukraine said it had recaptured last month.
Tarnavsky said on Friday that Ukrainian troops continue to advance further on the southern front. Kyiv’s forces are said to have penetrated the first cordon of Russia’s defenses, known as the “Surovikin line.” This was built on the orders of General Sergey Surovikin, while he was in charge of Russian forces.
CNN reported this week how Ukrainian forces were still 13 miles from the small city of Tokmak. It is considered critical for Russia’s defense of Melitopol, known as the gateway to Crimea.
But Tarnavsky said that there will be a big breakthrough, which will happen after Tokmak, and that at the moment, Russian forces “are relying on the depth of their defensive line there.”
Tarnavsky’s comments to CNN that it was important not to lose this initiative came on the same day as Ukraine claimed responsibility for a missile strike on Russian naval headquarters in Sevastopol, Crimea.
Kyrylo Budanov, head of Ukraine’s military intelligence, said that Russian generals were among the casualties of the strike, which killed at least nine and injured 16. Newsweek has yet to verify the exact numbers of dead and wounded. Kremlin propagandists voiced alarm at the ability of Russia’s air defenses.
Over recent weeks, Ukraine has focused on the peninsula illegally annexed by Russia in 2014. Crimea is a strategically vital logistics hub due to its location on the Black Sea, and strikes there have grabbed the headlines.
Ukraine said that, on September 13, it had struck Russian naval targets and port infrastructure in Sevastopol. A large vessel and a submarine were so badly damaged as to be likely beyond repair. Russia’s Defence Ministry said Kyiv had attacked a Black Sea shipyard with 10 cruise missiles and three uncrewed speedboats.
Ukraine’s focus on targeting Crimea occurred after Russia allowed the Black Sea Grain Initiative to lapse in July, which, until then, had allowed the safe passage of Ukrainian agricultural products.
But Ukraine also appeared to show its resilience and ability to reopen shipping lanes when two cargo vessels left the Ukrainian Black Sea port of Chornomorsk this week. The second of the ships, the Aroyat, had loaded almost 20,000 tonnes of wheat bound for Africa and Asia, Reuters reported.