Ukraine’s troops have made an important summer offensive breakthrough by breaching Russian lines in southern Ukraine, a key general told British media this weekend, saying he now expected faster progress in the Zaporizhzhia area. 

General Oleksandr Tarnavskiy, leading the southern offensive, spoke several days after Kyiv declared a strategic victory by recapturing the southern village of Robotyne. 

The interview came as President Volodymyr Zelensky has increasingly vocally dismissed criticism of Kyiv's counteroffensive, that has made slower gains than expected, AFP reports.

"We are now between the first and second defensive lines,” Tarnavskiy 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.”

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Heavily mined territory had slowed Ukrainian troops, saying that sappers had cleaned a route by foot and at night. 

Tarnavskiy told The Guardian that Moscow's forces “just stood and waited for the Ukrainian army.” 

The paper quoted him as saying that Kyiv's forces are now back on vehicles and that Russia has redeployed troops to the area. 

“The enemy is pulling up reserves, not only from Ukraine but also from Russia. But sooner or later, the Russians will run out of all the best soldiers. This will give us an impetus to attack more and faster,” Tarnavskiy said. 

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Kyiv’s Commander-in-Chief said Russia is now working hard to erode Ukraine’s forces the best it can before F-16s arrive and strengthen Ukrainian skies.

“Everything is ahead of us.” 

Under Tarnavskiy's command, Ukrainian troops liberated the southern city of Kherson last year. 

He said that when Kyiv launched its counteroffensive in June, it “spent more time than we expected on demining territories.”

“Unfortunately, the evacuation of the wounded was difficult for us. And this also complicated our advance,” he said. Tarnvaskiy admitted difficult losses for Kyiv. 

“The closer to victory, the harder it is. Why? Because, unfortunately, we are losing the strongest and best,” he said. 

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“So now we have to concentrate on certain areas and finish the job. No matter how hard it is for all of us.”

On Saturday, Zelensky said shrugged off criticism of the counter offensive. 

“Despite everything and no matter what anyone says, we are advancing, and that is the most important thing,” he said on Telegram. 

“We are on the move.”

Ukrainian forces continued offensive operations in western Zaporizhia Oblast on September 2 and reportedly advanced, the Institute for the Study of War reported. 

The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces continued offensive operations in the Melitopol (western Zaporizhia Oblast) direction. 

Russian milbloggers who have previously maintained that Russian forces hold positions in the southern part of Robotyne claimed that Russian forces withdrew from the southern outskirts of the settlement to unspecified positions further south. 

Another milblogger claimed that fighting is ongoing in forest areas south of Robotyne.

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