THE BATTLE: Pro-Russian officials said on Wednesday that Ukrainian forces had launched a significant attack south of the town of Orikhiv in the Zaporizhzhia region of Ukraine. There was no comment from Ukrainian authorities and the claim could not be independently confirmed, but Orikhiv is an important front in Ukraine’s counteroffensive as it tries to expel Russian forces from the south and east of the country.
THE LATEST: Fierce battles are underway south of Orikhiv, a city around 60 miles north of the Sea of Azov, a key target of Ukrainian forces, the officials said. Ukrainian forces attacked with around 100 armored vehicles, according to Vladimir Rogov, an official appointed by Moscow in southern Ukraine.
He said on the Telegram app that there had been several waves of attacks by Ukrainian forces that had been trained abroad and equipped with German-made Leopard tanks and American-made Bradley Fighting Vehicles.
Another pro-Russian official, Yevgeny Balitsky, said that since Tuesday, Ukraine had made 36 attempts to shell settlements in the region and had attempted to break through Russian defenses. He said that those efforts had been rebuffed.
Ukraine’s general staff said in an update on Wednesday that Russian forces were engaged in defensive operations in the Zaporizhzhia region.
A spokesman for Ukraine’s general staff, Andriy Kovalev, said that Russian forces had unsuccessfully tried to restore lost positions northeast of Robotyne, a village around eight miles southeast of Orikhiv. “The enemy continues to put up strong resistance, moves units, and actively uses reserves,” he said.
WHY IT MATTERS: Ukraine’s counteroffensive, launched last month, has moved more slowly than some military experts and some Western allies had expected. In part, this is because of dense Russian minefields, which have impeded Ukraine’s advances, but also the strong resistance of Russian forces who have had months to prepare.
The offensive has broadly been conducted along three axes of attack, including in the western part of the Zaporizhzhia region. Many of Ukraine’s troops who had been trained by t Western allies have not been sent into battle and military commanders have not deployed some vehicles supplied as military aid to the country.
The reports of intensified fighting south of Orikhiv suggest that a second wave of a counteroffensive may be underway in that part of the front line. Ukraine’s ultimate objective on the southern front is to reach the Sea of Azov, which would cut off a so-called land bridge connecting Russian occupation forces in southern Ukraine and those in the east.