Ukraine’s armed forces have made “further tactically significant gains” in the south of the country and may have broken through the toughest line of Russian defenses in some areas.

Geolocated footage as well as statements from both Ukrainian and western officials suggest Kyiv’s counteroffensive is finally making progress and gathering pace in the western Zaporizhzhia region.

Jennifer Cafarella, Director of Strategic Initiatives at the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), said the developments are “starting to look like momentum.”

The latest ISW report cites a number of indicators.

Geolocated footage of Russian drone attacks on Ukrainian infantry show Kyiv’s troops have advanced 1.5 km southward northeast of Novoprokopivka (13 km south of Orikhiv) and south of the recently liberated village of Robotyne, well beyond Russia’s first line of defense.


Some of this progress had already been acknowledged by US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, who on Friday said: "Specifically on the axis of advance that they're attacking on right now, they've attacked through the first main defensive belt.

“This defensive line, which the Russians spent many months preparing, it's got minefields, it's got dragon's teeth, it's got tank ditches. 

“It's a very, very complex set of defensive preparations that the Ukrainians are fighting through.”

On Saturday, a Ukrainian commander said forces fighting in the south believe they have broken through the most difficult line of Russian defenses and will now be able to advance much quicker. 

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“Skala,” who led some of the troops who recently made it into the recently liberated village of Robotyne, told Reuters he is “sure we'll go faster from here.” 

“We have passed the main roads that were mined. We are coming to those lines where we can go (forward).”

Taken together, the ISW concludes Ukraine’s forces are “within striking distance of the next series of prepared Russian defensive positions” but cautions that these – although not as formidable as the first line of defense – still pose a “significant challenge.”


It adds: “The series of defensive positions that Ukrainian forces are currently advancing through were comprised of dense layers of minefields and fortifications to which Russian forces committed considerable manpower, materiel, and effort to hold.

“The series of Russian defensive positions now ahead of Ukrainian forces likely consists of a relatively more contiguous array of anti-tank ditches; dragon’s teeth anti-tank obstacles; and additional minefields - with Russian fighting positions behind these obstacles - much like the first Russian line of defense. 

“However, the extent of the minefields in the area of this series of prepared defensive positions is unclear, although they may be less heavily mined to give Russian forces operating north of these positions the ability to retreat.”

Fighting in the area, especially for the village of Robotyne, has been fierce. The village is at the southern-most tip of an offensive push launched by the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) from near the town of Orihiv, in early June, in an attempt to punch through Russian defensive lines along the T0408 highway, towards its objective in the city of Tokmak. 


Breaking through and taking Tokmak will be hugely significant, bringing the Armed Forces of Ukraine one step closer to their goal in the region – reaching the Sea of Azov and cutting the Russia’s occupying forces in two. 

On Wednesday Kyiv claimed a semi-breakthrough south of Robotyne. Ukraine Army General Staff chief spokesman Andriy Kovalev in comments widely reported in domestic media said Kyiv’s forces have “achieved success” in fighting around the village Novoprokopivka and were “digging in at the captured positions.”

Elsewhere, the British Ministry of Defense (MoD) believes Russian forces will increase pressure in other areas of Ukraine in an attempt to divert Kyiv’s forces and regain initiative. 

In its daily report on Saturday, the MoD wrote: “The Ukrainian counter-offensive has put Russian forces under pressure in Bakhmut and southern Ukraine. 

“Despite this, Russia’s Western Group of Forces has continued small-scale attacks in the north-east, in the Kupiansk-Lyman sector, and has made some limited local advances.”

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