LVIV – Ukrainian Minister of Defense Oleksiy Reznikov said that President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has ordered a massive counteroffensive to beat back Russian forces along the country’s southern coast.
Together with Western weapons, Ukraine is already gathering a “million-strong fighting force” for the battle, Mr. Reznikov said.
Mr. Zelenskyy said the task of the Ukrainian Armed Forces and each Ukrainian citizen is to rid the entire country of Russian forces.
“I can say that the task of all our military is to de-occupy our entire territory. I think this is the task of every citizen of our country. If you don’t mind, I won’t share the details of certain plans,” Mr. Zelenskyy said at a joint briefing with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte in Kyiv, as he answered questions about the plan to liberate southern Ukraine.
Mr. Reznikov said that the liberation of the country’s southern coastal areas is vital for the economy.
“We understand that politically it is necessary for our country,” Mr. Reznikov said.
“Ukraine is gathering a million-strong fighting force equipped with Western weapons to win back its southern territory,” Mr. Reznikov said during an interview with The Times of London.
According to the defense minister, Mr. Zelenskyy instructed the country’s military leadership to work on the massive counteroffensive plan. As a result, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine is currently compiling a list of what is needed at the front, and the Ministry of Defense is trying to find all of the resources it needs to successfully carry out the mission.
At the beginning of June, the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Maj. Gen. Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, announced that the Ukrainian military had launched a counteroffensive in several directions. The Kherson City Council then announced that the armed forces were conducting a counteroffensive in the Kherson region.
Mr. Zelenskyy later announced that Ukrainian troops had already liberated part of the region and that the Russian in the south of Ukraine had been stopped from making any further advances.
At the beginning of July, Mr. Zelenskyy said that Ukrainian forces were advancing in several tactical directions, particularly in the south, in the Kherson and Zaporizhia regions.
Ukraine’s Armed Forces have liberated 44 settlements in the Kherson region, according to the Ukrainian military. However, the situation there is difficult, Dmytro Butriy, acting head of the Kherson Region Military Administration, said during a press briefing at the Ukraine Media Center.
“These settlements suffer greatly because the invaders keep shelling them, and the destruction is massive. They are destroying infrastructure, residential buildings, kindergartens and schools. The russian world destroys our country and people,” Mr. Butriy said.
“The situation in the south remains tense. Our forces move forward slowly but surely,” said Natalia Humeniuk, head of the United Coordinating Press Center of the Security and Defense Forces of the South of Ukraine.
“The major achievement is hitting command posts and storage facilities with ammunition and fuel. Some equipment was hit as well. Usually, these are the most hazardous equipment items causing significant destruction,” Ms. Humeniuk said on July 11.
High-precision weapons, which Ukraine received from foreign allies, accelerated the process of repelling Russian forces, said the secretary of the National Security and Defense Council, Oleksiy Danilov, in an interview with Radio Svoboda.
“We don’t have a single day without surprises for the occupiers when their headquarters, their gatherings, their places of storage of weapons and equipment are attacked. This weapon works flawlessly: it understands exactly where it needs to hit, and these shots hit exactly where they need to hit,” Mr. Danilov said.
Ivan Fedorov, mayor of Russian-occupied Melitopol, said that, after attacks by Ukraine’s Armed Forces against logistics bases, Russians hid their equipment in a panic.
“Russians are in panic, as they have been ‘taking a rest’ in Melitopol. They felt safe and did not expect any threat. But their attitude changed after their logistics hub in Ukraine’s south was destroyed, and 200 Russians were buried at the military base, with 300 more wounded,” the mayor said.
However, Russia intensified its campaign of terror against locals. They started looking for guerrilla fighters, resistance forces and Ukrainian special services, the mayor said.
“Melitopol was blocked for some time. Neighboring settlements were also blocked off for filtration. Additional units of the Russian police and … secret service were brought in; they are cordoning off neighborhoods and locking down bridges. They put their anti-air defenses under the railway bridge,” Mr. Fedorov said.
Russians started moving their equipment out of Melitopol toward temporarily occupied Crimea to ensure Ukraine’s Armed Forces could not hit it, the mayor said.
“The situation became tenser over the last two weeks. Our defenders do not let Russians keep living in peace – the invaders’ cargo train was derailed, a railway bridge was blasted and a military unit of invaders was destroyed. From this day on, Russians realize that they won’t be able to survive in Melitopol. Yesterday, Ukraine’s Armed Forces neutralized one more base of the invaders near Myrne. People under the occupation are glad to hear such news; however, the invaders and collaborators keep their pressure on. Yesterday, a henchman of the invaders tasked to manage health care gathered the people and ordered them to prepare for the offensive,” he said.
Vitaliy Kim, the head of the Mykolaiv Oblast Military Administration, said the situation in the region is difficult, but under control. Soldiers on the frontline work around the clock, and residents of the area have begun to return home. But, as a result of increased shelling in the, people are not in a hurry to do so.
“The region, of course, lives under pressure. Soldiers on the frontline work hard around the clock. Only the military can talk about any successes. However, we are in full communication with the military regarding equipment. We in the region are waiting for heavy weapons and ammunition to build on our successes and liberate the territories,” Mr. Kim said.
The minister of Reintegration of the Temporarily Occupied Territories, Iryna Vereshchuk, called on the residents of the temporarily occupied territory of the Kherson region to leave the area in order to facilitate the military’s de-occupation of the region.
Ms. Vereshchuk emphasized that the residents of Kherson region, especially those with children, should not wait to leave the area, as doing so will help the Ukrainian Armed Forces during their counteroffensive.
“Please leave because our army will definitely de-occupy these lands. Our will to do this is unwavering. And it will be very difficult to open the humanitarian corridor when there are children. It was difficult in Mariupol and will be even more difficult in the Kherson region because the enemy is learning, becoming even more cynical, using human shields, especially children. … Believe me, de-occupation will happen very quickly. There will definitely be a counteroffensive,” Ms. Vereshchuk said.
She said Ukrainian authorities would not punish anyone who used fake documents issued by the occupiers to leave temporarily occupied Crimea.
“They will not break the law if they leave through the temporarily occupied Crimea. We know that today it is almost the only humanitarian corridor, if you can call it that, through which you can leave. So, if there is an opportunity, get out, especially with children,” she said.
A counteroffensive by the Armed Forces of Ukraine in the Kherson region will be difficult, but possible, said Kyrylo Budanov, head of the Office of Military Intelligence of Ukraine, during an interview with Reuters.
“From August, we should expect visible results of military activity from Ukraine. Just wait a little, and we’ll see what it will bring,” said Mr. Budanov.
The success of the Ukrainian military in liberating the region from Russian occupation will, among other things, depend on the assistance of foreign partners in helping Ukraine, which has relied on those allies for heavy weapons.
The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) in a summary on July 6 said Ukrainian troops have begun to prepare for a counteroffensive on Kherson. Geolocation satellite images show that Ukrainian troops struck Russian positions around the Kherson international airport, located in the Chornobayivka area of the region.
After four weeks of using U.S.-supplied HIMARS rocket launchers, the Ukrainian Armed Forces destroyed over 50 large targets, among them command centers, arsenals, oil depots and missile depots.
“Without ammunition, Russian artillery lost 60-70 percent of its effectiveness. Frontal shelling has been reduced several times. The limited number of M142 HIMARS machines [have]ensured the actual stopping of Russian artillery,” said Petro Shuklinov, a Ukrainian journalist with Liga.net.
“The latest Russian anti-aircraft and anti-missile systems proved to be completely defenseless against the missiles that the Ukrainians are firing at Russian positions. The Russians are incapable of shooting down these missiles. [They are] unable to defend headquarters and bases, unable to do anything against HIMARS,” Mr. Shuklinov said.
Ukraine will probably have at least 20 HIMARS systems by mid-August, he said. Using them effectively will allow Ukraine to transition from strategic goals to tactical ones, which will open up the possibility of de-occupation of the Kherson, Zaporizhia and Kharkiv regions, he said.
“In the event of the delivery of longer-range missiles, the Armed Forces will begin the destruction of the arsenals in Crimea, and, with the partners’ consent, the destruction of the military infrastructure of the Russians in the frontline regions,” Mr. Shuklinov said.
Mr. Zelenskyy also recently voiced his strong support for the long-range, high precision rocket systems and thanked the U.S. for its most recent support of his country.
“I want to thank the United States of America for the decision to provide Ukraine with a new defense aid package in the amount of $400 million. Additional HIMARS launchers units and other high-precision weapons allow us to take precise anti-terrorist steps and reduce Russian attack capabilities,” he said.