The strategically important village of Robotyne in southern Ukraine has been officially liberated, Kyiv has announced.
“Robotyne has been liberated and our troops are moving southeast,” Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said on Monday morning.
She added that Ukraine’s troops are now advancing towards Novoprokopivka and Ocheretuvate “despite fierce enemy resistance.”
Kyiv’s forces entered Robotyne in the western Zaporizhzhia region last week, rescuing ecstatic villagers who described their “unexpected” joy at finally being liberated from Russian occupation.
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 Orikhiv, 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 Russia’s occupying forces in two.
Fighting in the town continued and over the weekend a Ukrainian commander leading some of the troops in the area said only two houses in the village remained under Russian control.
He said on Saturday: “We're fighting for them, and then we'll have full control (of Robotyne).
“We don't stop here. Next, we have Berdyansk, and then more.
“I made it clear to my fighters at once: our goal is not Robotyne, our goal is (the Sea of) Azov.”
On Sunday, Western analysts said 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.”
On Wednesday Kyiv claimed a semi-breakthrough south of Robotyne. Ukraine Army General Staff chief spokesperson 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.”
The ISW said Russia had "committed a considerable amount of materiel, effort, and manpower to hold the series of defensive positions that Ukrainian forces are currently penetrating."
Ukrainian forces are coming up against Russian defensive lines of trenches and minefields that are kilometers deep, and its forces have clawed back just several villages in the south and pressured the flanks of Bakhmut, a war-scarred town in the east.
Maliar said Monday that Ukrainian troops were advancing south of Bakhmut and that they had recaptured one square kilometer (around one-third a square mile) there over the last week of fighting.
She also acknowledged a Russian push to take back territory in the northeast of Ukraine, describing fighting in the Kharkiv region as "very intense" over the past week.
Ukrainian officials have estimated that Russia has committed around 100,000 additional troops to frontlines in the northeast to pressure defensive lines.
British intelligence services have said Russia could try to divert Ukrainian military resources by solidifying their positions in Kharkiv.
While movement on the frontline has been stilted, both sides have pursued aerial assault campaigns.
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