Zelensky signals start of Ukrainian counteroffensive

President Volodymyr Zelensky on Saturday provided strong confirmation that the long-awaited Ukrainian counter-offensive has begun, as fighting along a 600-kilometer front line provided further evidence that the long-awaited counter-attack is in full swing.

“There are counter-offensive and defensive actions going on in Ukraine,” he said at a press conference with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Saturday. “At what stage, I will not disclose in detail.”

The Ukrainian military, which carefully keeps information about the battlefield, only widely acknowledged the clashes that played out at the front from Friday evening to Saturday. Military analysts said that Ukraine tried to break through the positions of Russian troops in several places in the south and east, near the cities of Orekhov in the Zaporozhye region and Velyka Novoselka in the Donetsk region.

Over the past 24 hours, Ukrainian forces hit four Russian command posts, six areas of concentration of personnel, weapons and military equipment, three ammunition depots and five enemy artillery installations in firing positions with rocket and artillery shelling, the military said. These claims cannot be independently verified.

In the devastated eastern town of Bakhmut, Ukrainian forces have advanced about a mile in parts of the front line, the military said Saturday, in an attempt to reclaim the wastelands that Russia spent nearly a year and thousands of soldiers seizing. month.

The objective was to take advantage of the rotation of Russian units in the area, Colonel. This was reported to local television by the representative of the Eastern Military Command Sergei Cherevaty. He said the Ukrainian military had engaged Russian forces six times near Bakhmut in the past 24 hours.

He did not specify where Ukraine pressed, and his claims could not be independently verified.

The Russian Defense Ministry stated that it successfully repelled all the assaults, and did not comment on the situation around Bakhmut.

Russian forces have also shelled Ukrainian cities and towns far from the front lines, firing rockets and drones at the port city of Odessa on Friday evening. The Ukrainian military said its air defenses shot down all eight drones aimed at the city, but debris from the weapons fell on a nine-story residential building, killing at least three people and injuring about two dozen people, including a pregnant woman and two. children

The Ukrainian military said they also shot down two of three missiles aimed at the city, but one of them hit the shore, injuring at least three people.

When Ukrainian and Russian forces clashed on Saturday, rescuers in southern Ukraine searched the fetid waters for survivors of a dam-ruptured flood.

The collapse of the Kakhovka Dam on Tuesday sent a powerful flood of water through dozens of towns and villages in southern Ukraine, leaving thousands homeless, destroying more than a million acres of once-rich farmland and threatening to leave hundreds of thousands behind. without access to clean drinking water. This forces Ukraine to cope with one of the worst environmental and economic disasters in Europe in decades, even as it pursues its most ambitious and strategic military campaign of the war.

In Kherson, the flood waters are “gradually receding,” Alexander Prokudin, head of the regional military administration, said in a video message.

About 35 villages and more than 3,700 homes in Ukrainian-controlled territory are still flooded, he said, adding that the situation in Russian-occupied towns and villages in the lowlands on the east bank remains dangerous.

At least 27 people in the Ukrainian-controlled part of the Kherson region have gone missing, Interior Minister Igor Klymenko said. More than 2,600 people, including 160 children, have been evacuated, he said.

Even as rescue efforts were being made, Russian forces fired 41 times on settlements in Ukrainian-held parts of Kherson region on Friday, wounding at least four people, including a child, he said. According to him, the contents of the cemeteries in two villages were washed into the sea, adding to the poisonous whirlwind of debris and ammunition washed ashore in southern Ukraine.

As a precautionary measure, the Atomic Energy Agency of Ukraine has put the last operating reactor at the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant on a “cold shutdown”, which uses water from the reservoir to cool. The plant is not in immediate danger, the Energoatom agency added.

Concerns have grown that floodwaters could be a breeding ground for disease, but Ukraine’s health ministry said social media reports of a cholera epidemic were false. The ministry said that, nevertheless, they would strengthen epidemiological surveillance and increase the stocks of necessary medicines in the region.

Bacterial diseases such as cholera and dysentery pose a risk to people in flooded areas, especially those with limited access to clean water, but the ministry said the situation is under control for now.

The consequences of the loss of the reservoir were also felt outside the flood zone, as it was the main source of drinking water for hundreds of thousands of people in the region. In the Dnipropetrovsk region, more than 89 thousand subscribers were left without water, the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine reported on Saturday.

Battling an immediate humanitarian crisis, Ukrainian officials are trying to assess the long-term impact of the dam failure, which threatens to leave hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland without proper irrigation, further devastate Ukraine’s agricultural industry and exacerbate the global food crisis. .

The Kakhovka irrigation system, the largest in Europe and one of the largest in the world, provided the necessary water for more than 617,000 acres of agricultural land in the dry southern steppes of Ukraine. Now it’s lost, according to report of the State Agency for Recreation and Fisheries of Ukraine which was released on Friday.

In addition, the report says, the water supply to the irrigation systems that served another 1.2 million acres of agricultural land, which before the invasion could grow a wide variety of crops, such as corn, soybeans, rapeseed, wheat, eggplant, onions, peppers, will be cut off. and cucumbers.

Senior United Nations aid official Martin Griffiths said in an interview Friday that the long-term effects of the dam collapse and flooding were “extremely dire” and would affect global food supplies.

Ukraine is a leading grain exporter and the sharp drop in its exports due to the war has raised concerns about the food security of millions of people around the world. After the dam burst last week, global wheat and corn prices rose amid concerns about Ukraine’s ability to continue growing food for Africa, the Middle East and parts of Asia.

As Ukrainian leaders struggle to get a clear picture of the growing humanitarian crisis unfolding in southern Ukraine — an effort complicated by the fact that the Russians are preventing independent monitors and humanitarian organizations from operating in territory they control — Moscow and Kiev have argued differently. question. Front at War: Information and War Narrative Management.

Anna Malyar, Deputy Minister of Defense of Ukraine, said that war always means losses, including “the most terrible, but inevitable losses” of human lives. But she said that “current wars take place in two dimensions – real and informational.”

Some accused the Russians of exaggerating their successes on the battlefield. The Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank, said that “the Russian media space prematurely claimed that the Ukrainian counteroffensive failed after Russian troops damaged more Ukrainian military equipment provided by the West on June 9.”

President Vladimir Putin, rarely commenting on events on the battlefield, said that the fighting had been going on for five days and claimed that Ukrainian forces “had not achieved their objectives in any of the combat areas.”

Mister. Putin’s willingness to discuss a counteroffensive “may indicate that the Kremlin is learning from its previous failed approach to rhetorically downplaying successful Ukrainian counteroffensives in 2022,” ISW analysts said.

RS. Malyar warned that Russia often publishes inflated figures in the hope of extracting valuable information from Ukraine’s efforts to disprove them.

“You need to understand that we are also fighting information, like the enemy,” she said.

Andrew E. Kramer reporting from Zaporozhye, Ukraine.