Ukraine and Russia were locked in fierce battles along the front lines on Friday, with the toughest fighting unfolding in the southeastern Zaporizhzhia region, where military analysts warn that Ukraine will face heavy losses as it tries to break through fortified Russian defences.
By evening, the Ukrainian military did not claim any breakthroughs after a day of escalating attacks, which US officials have said is a main thrust in Ukraine’s long-awaited counteroffensive aimed at retaking captured territory.
Presidents Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine and Vladimir V. Putin of Russia presented divergent narratives of the escalating fighting, each claiming the upper hand. Zelensky said Ukrainian forces were achieving “step by step” results, while Putin claimed that “the courage of Russian soldiers” was thwarting Kyiv’s push.
Zelensky said late on Thursday that the Ukrainian Army had made progress in “very tough battles”, though he did not give details. Ukraine’s Armed Forces said on Friday that the “enemy remains on the defensive” as Russian forces strike the area with aerial bombardments.
But Russia’s defence ministry said on Friday that its forces had repelled several Ukrainian attacks in the southeastern regions of Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk. It was not possible to confirm either side’s account of the fighting.
Putin said that Ukraine had begun an offensive, as evidenced by the use of its “strategic reserves”.
The most recent battle erupted in an area of table-flat steppe in Ukraine’s south, an unforgiving landscape for war with little cover for advancing troops, where Russia has laid mine belts and dug layer upon layer of defensive trenches. Ukraine’s military and a local Russian-appointed official, Vladimir Rogov, said on Friday that heavy fighting was taking place south of the town of Orikhiv.
New York Times News Service