Ukraine says its forces have pushed further into the Mokhri Yali river valley in the country’s south, announcing on Wednesday that they had recaptured the small village of Urosin after Russian forces said they had retreated following more than a week of fighting.
Retaking the village in Donetsk region means Ukraine now has positions on both banks of the Mokhri Yali River, opening up more options as its forces try to advance on Russian strongholds to the south. But the fact that progress in Kiev’s long-awaited counteroffensive is now being measured by the recapture of small villages reinforces how tough the fight has become.
“Urosin has been released,” Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar said. said in a statement On Wednesday morning, a day later, Russian forces and officials were forced to withdraw from the village, he said.
“We lost Urosin,” the Russian Vostok battalion, which took part in the battle, said in a statement on Tuesday. The claims have not been independently verified.
Each side claims to have inflicted heavy losses on the other during the fierce fighting, but does not count its own losses. The village, which had a population of fewer than 1,000 before Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, has been left in ruins by the fighting. Urosin was the first village to be recaptured by Kiev’s forces after recapturing Staromyorsk in late July.
Ukraine’s ultimate goal is to reach the Sea of Azov and drive a wedge into the so-called land bridge between Russia and Crimea, vital to the Russian military’s supply routes to the west. They hope that if Ukrainian forces can penetrate deep enough into Russian-controlled territory to expose Moscow’s supply lines to direct artillery fire, they will render Russia’s defensive positions untenable.
Ukrainian forces now have several options for where to try to concentrate their forces. As they press southwest toward Berdyansk, they may try to push around the Russian-held village of Staromlinivka, four miles south of Urosin.
Or if that seemed to offer a better opportunity, they could direct their attack southeast toward Mariupol. Both Mariupol and Berdyansk are major port cities on the Sea of Azov about 50 miles apart.
Nevertheless, Russian forces control many small villages on both routes, making rapid Ukrainian advances unlikely. The attack was slowed at every step by extensive minefields, Russian attack aircraft, and dug-in Russian troops.
After Russia’s Vostok Battalion penetrated its defenses, it said the Ukrainians drove east toward the village of Oktyabrskoi. “About seven units of armored vehicles, along with infantry, are trying to find a new promising direction,” the battalion said.
Unable to verify the claim, Ukraine’s military remained silent on the movements of its soldiers.
Speaking at a Ukrainian army news conference on Tuesday, Colonel Petro Chernyk said the Russians had set up strong defenses across southern Ukraine, with the first line covered in miles of landmines and the second lined with artillery and troops. , and the third row of rear positions will protect resources.
Andriy Kovalev, a spokesman for the Ukrainian military’s general staff, said Wednesday that the country’s forces continued to make small gains in a second-line offensive, squeezing Russian defensive lines around the town of Robotyn, 50 miles away in southern Ukraine. Melitopol is a major transport hub near the coast.
But Ukrainian forces remained on the defensive in the east. Oleksandr Chirsky, the commander of Ukraine’s ground forces, admitted in a Telegram post that defending against Russia’s escalating offensive in northeastern Ukraine around the city of Kubiansk would be difficult.
Moscow’s troops are trying to break through Ukrainian borders every day, he said, with the aim of capturing the city. Defending Ukrainian positions near Bakhmut, the site of the war’s longest and bloodiest battle, remains a struggle, he said, although maintained Ukrainian troops are holding the line and making steady advances.
August 17, 2023
An earlier version of this article misstated Ukraine’s options for the possible direction of a counterattack. Ukrainian forces could push southwest toward Perdyansk or southeast toward Mariupol, not the other way around.
How we handle corrections