The long-awaited counteroffensive by Ukrainian troops has started in the southern region of Kherson, with the president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, saying: “If they want to survive, it is time for the Russian military to flee.”
Ukrainian troops have broken through Russian defences in several areas of the frontline near the city of Kherson, a senior adviser to Zelenskiy claimed on Monday.
Oleksiy Arestovych said in a video interview Ukrainian forces were also shelling the ferries in the Kherson region that Moscow is using to supply Russian-occupied territory on the west bank of the Dnieper river.
In a Monday night speech, Zelenskiy did not address the counteroffensive specifically but said: “The occupiers should know: we will oust them to the border. To our border, the line of which has not changed.”
Those who surrendered would be treated under the Geneva conventions, he said, adding: “If they do not listen to me, they will deal with our defenders, who will not stop until they liberate everything that belongs to Ukraine.”
Ukrainian troops have taken back four villages near the city of Kherson after breaking through the frontline in three places, CNN reported, quoting a Ukrainian military source, with the main “target” being Kherson. The operation began with heavy shelling of Russian positions and the rear, forcing them to flee, the source was quoted as saying.
Russia’s defence ministry said that Ukrainian troops had attempted an offensive in the Mykolaiv and Kherson regions but sustained significant casualties, RIA news agency reported. The “enemy’s offensive attempt failed miserably,” it said.
The battlefield reports could not be independently verified.
Earlier on Monday, a spokesperson for Ukraine’s southern command, Nataliya Humenyuk, confirmed the counteroffensive had started in Kherson province after a video circulated online that allegedly showed a soldier from the Russian-run self-proclaimed republic of Donetsk saying Ukrainian forces had broken through the first line of defence.
The operation was being carried out in “many directions” in the south, Humenyuk told a briefing and urged local residents to either leave urgently or seek shelter.
Humenyuk said the operation needed “silence” as media attention could affect the results. Her claims could not be independently corroborated.
Humenyuk said Russian forces were strong and that even though morale was low among their ranks, “it was too early to relax”. Western and Ukrainian military intelligence has noted a buildup of Russian troops and equipment this summer, suggesting Russia was preparing its own offensive.
However, Ukraine’s presidential adviser, Mykhailo Podolyak, warned politicians, experts and opinion leaders not to speculate about the progress of a military operation before Ukraine’s Ministry of Defence and army issued official statements.
“I understand our wishes and dreams … But war is not ‘content’. Let’s filter information and work professionally out of respect for our defenders,” he wrote on Telegram.