Ukraine has claimed that a Russian general who was leading troops on the southern front was “seriously wounded” in the Storm Shadow strike on Russia’s Black Sea Navy fleet HQ last Friday. Two other Admirals were killed in that same Storm Shadow Strikes.
Kyrylo Budanov, the head of the Main Intelligence Directorate of Ukraine, told Voice of America that the commander of the group, Col Gen Alexander Romanchuk, was among the wounded and is in very serious condition. Romanchuk is reported to be in charge of Russian forces in Zaporizhzhia, where the main thrust of the counter-offensive is happening.
Budanov said that nine people were killed and 16 injured, among them the two generals, in the landmark strike. The number of “causal servicemen on duty” who were killed or injured has not yet been determined, he added.
The Ukrainian army said that the strike targeted “a meeting of the Russian navy’s leadership” and that “senior Russian navy commanders” were among the casualties.
Ukraine has broken through Russia’s lines in the Zaporizhzhia region and expects to make further breakthroughs, the general leading Kyiv’s offensive in the south has said.
“On the left flank [near the village of Verbove] we have a breakthrough and we continue to advance further,” General Oleksandr Tarnavskiy told CNN.
He acknowledged the advance had so far been slower than Ukraine hoped.
“Not as fast as it was expected, not like in the movies about the Second World War,” he said. “The main thing is not to lose this initiative.”
The major breakthrough is expected to come if Kyiv’s forces manage to retake Tokmak, 12 miles beyond the current frontline, the general said. The liberation of the city would allow Ukrainian forces to push further towards occupied Melitopol and annexed Crimea.
“I believe yes [there will be a big breakthrough],” Gen Tarnavsky said. “I think it will happen after Tokmak. At the moment [the Russians] are relying on the depth of their defensive line there.”
His comments about advances in the south are the latest in a series of claims from Kyiv in recent weeks that they are progressing in the Zaporizhzhia region and have penetrated Russia’s strongest defences.
The “crossroads, tree lines and minefields between the tree lines,” represent the biggest challenges, he said in the interview.
There is “a combination of small, harmful enemy defence groups that currently are planted very precisely and competently,” he said. “But the actions of our fighters force them to slowly pull back when they face our assault squads.”
For Gen Tarnavsky, reaching Tokmak is the minimum to claim success in the counter-offensive.
“Tokmak is the minimum goal,” he said. “The overall objective is to get to our state borders.”
While many fear that the onset of winter could further slow the offensive, Gen Tarnavsky said he believes the weather is unlikely to hold them back now.
“The weather can be a serious obstacle during advances, but considering how we move forward, mostly without vehicles, I don’t think [the weather] will heavily influence the counter-offensive,” he said.
Russian officials have given a very different picture of the battle in Zaporizhzhia.
The interview was published a day after Kyiv struck Russia’s Black Sea Fleet headquarters in the Crimean port of Sevastopol, claiming to have killed “senior” commanders.
Gen Tarnavsky said the counter-offensive’s success depends not only on what happens on the front, but also on “destroying command centres” that create “a mess on the battlefield”.
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