Ukrainian forces have decisively breached Russia’s first defensive line near Zaporizhzhia after weeks of painstaking mine clearance, and expect faster gains as they press the weaker second line, the general leading the southern counteroffensive has said.
Brig Gen Oleksandr Tarnavskiy estimated Russia had devoted 60% of its time and resources into building the first defensive line and only 20% each into the second and third lines because Moscow had not expected Ukrainian forces to get through.
“We are now between the first and second defensive lines,” he said, speaking to the Observer in his first interview since the breakthrough. Ukrainian forces were now pushing out on both sides of the breach and consolidating their hold on territory seized in recent fighting, he said.
“In the centre of the offensive, we are now completing the destruction of enemy units that provide cover for the retreat of Russian troops behind their second defensive line.”
A vast minefield trapped Ukrainian troops for weeks as infantry sappers slowly cleared an assault route on foot. Russian troops behind it “just stood and waited for the Ukrainian army”, picking off vehicles with shells and drones, he said.
But now that barrier has been crossed, Russians have been forced into manoeuvres and Ukrainians are back in their tanks and other armoured vehicles. In a sign that Moscow is feeling the pressure, it has redeployed troops to the area from frontlines inside occupied Ukraine – Kherson to the west and Lyman to the north-east – and also from inside Russia, he said. [Continue reading…]