Ukraine’s counteroffensive has already broken through the first Russian lines of defence in places, but its army has taken casualties, British military intelligence said on Saturday.
The Ministry of Defence said that the Ukrainian soldiers had met “mixed” resistance, with some Russian units holding their ground but others fleeing, with some forced to retreat through their own minefields.
“In some areas, Ukrainian forces have likely made good progress and penetrated the first line of Russian defences. In others, Ukrainian progress has been slower,” the MoD said.
Ukraine had warned that Russian air superiority would be a problem for its offensive and the MoD said that Russian fighter jets had been “unusually active” over front line battlefields.
The Ukrainian military’s main attacks have focused on the Zaporizhzhia region.
Strategists have said that if Ukrainian forces can recapture the town of Tokmak, around 10 miles to the south of the current front line, they will break Russian transport links between occupied parts of Donbas and Crimea.
Other Western analysts also said that Ukraine had struck Russian forces around Bakhmut in the Donbas region, which had been the focus of fighting.
“Ukrainian forces around Bakhmut have advanced almost one mile in 24 hours,” said Phillips O’Brien, professor of Strategic Studies at the University of St Andrews.
At a press conference in Kyiv with Justin Trudeau, the Canadian prime pinister, Volodymyr Zelensky said: “Counter-offensive and defensive actions are taking place in Ukraine: at which stage I will not talk in detail.”
However, the Ukrainian President said that his military commanders were “in a positive mood”.
“It is important that Russia feels this, that they do not have long left in my opinion,” he said.
The Canadian leader said he would provide 500m Canadian dollars in new funding for military assistance to Ukraine.
He also pledged that Canada would be part of the multinational efforts to train Ukraine’s fighter pilots.
Ukraine’s military does not publish casualty figures, but images from the front lines appear to show that it has suffered losses.
“Mines, anti-tank guided missiles and first-person view drones disabling vehicles are going to be a massive problem for Ukraine, just as they have previously proven to be for Russia,” said Oliver Alexander, a defence analyst.
Russian officials and military bloggers have praised Russia’s defensive lines, although many hit an unusually downbeat, but still defiant, tone.
“We have to admit that the tactical advance of the Ukrainian military in this area is happening but it is not critical,” the WarGonzo Telegram channel said of fighting near the village of Velikaya Novoselovka on the western edge of the Donetsk region.
“We still firmly hold the high ground but the enemy has taken positions in the low land.”
To the west of the front line fighting, rescue workers were still trying to evacuate people from towns and villages flooded this week when a dam broke on the Dnipro River.
Ukraine has accused Russia of deliberately destroying the Nova Kakhovka dam to slow the Ukrainian advance.
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