Ukraine war: Zelenskyy claims progress in counter-offensive against Russians

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Ukraine has claimed to be making progress in its counter-offensive in the eastern regions of the country.

In his nightly video address, Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelenskyy reported “good news” from the Kharkiv region east of Kyiv, saying that several settlements had been recaptured from Russian forces.

Zelensky declined to list the places that had been retaken, saying that “now is not the time to name the settlements to which the Ukrainian flag returns”.

He also thanked Ukrainian artillery troops for what he said were successful strikes against Moscow’s forces in the south of Ukraine. 

“I think every citizen feels proud of our soldiers,” he added.

On Wednesday, a senior Pentagon official said that Ukrainian forces were making “slow but meaningful progress” on the battlefield and are currently doing better in the south than Russia.

“It is early days. I think the Ukrainians are making slow but meaningful progress. And we’ll see how things pan out,” Under Secretary of Defence for Policy Colin Kahl told an event hosted by Defence News. 

“But I certainly think things are going better on the Ukrainian side right now in the south than is true on the Russian side.”

Washington DC-based think tank The Institute for the Study of War estimates that Ukraine has retaken 400 square kilometres of territory in the east of the Kharkiv region, with the group saying that Ukrainian forces were “likely exploiting Russian force reallocation” to the south, caused by Ukraine’s ongoing operations in the Kherson region, to “conduct an opportunistic yet highly effective counteroffensive” northwest of Izyum.

Some reports have suggested that Ukrainian forces could be as close as a few dozen kilometres from the city of Izyum, an important part of Russia’s military supply chain.

However, it’s not only been Ukrainian forces pushing forward. In its nightly update on Wednesday, the Ukrainian General Staff said that it had “repelled all Russian attacks” in the Kharkiv and Donetsk regions, but that both sides continued to exchange artillery and air strikes, causing damage to dozen of different places.

Meanwhile, shelling resumed on Wednesday near Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, with both sides casting blame on the other. This came a day after the UN atomic watchdog agency pressed for a safe zone around the power plant to prevent a catastrophe.

The head of the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Grossi, warned that “something very, very catastrophic could take place” at the Zaporizhzhia plant and urged Russia and Ukraine to establish a “nuclear safety and security protection zone” around it.

The major concern is that fighting could trigger a disaster on the scale of the Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine in 1986.