Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged Russian soldiers to flee for their lives after his forces launched an offensive to retake southern Ukraine, but Moscow said it had repulsed the attack and inflicted heavy losses on Kyiv’s troops.
Ukraine said on Monday its ground forces had gone on the offensive for the first time after a long period of aerial raids on Russian supply lines, especially ammunition dumps and bridges across the strategically important River Dnieper.
“If they want to survive, it’s time for the Russian military to run away. Go home,” Zelenskyy said in a late-night address.
“Ukraine is taking back its own [land],” he said, adding that he would not disclose Kyiv’s battle plans.
In response, Kremlin Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said on Tuesday that Russia was methodically pressing on with its plans in Ukraine, adding: “All of our goals will be reached.”
The Ukrainian counterattack comes after several weeks of relative deadlock in a war that has killed thousands, displaced millions, destroyed cities and fuelled a global energy and food crisis amid unprecedented Western economic sanctions on Russia.
Russia captured large tracts of southern Ukraine near the Black Sea coast in the early weeks of the six-month-old war, including in the Kherson region, which lies north of the Russian-annexed Crimean Peninsula.
Ukraine, now armed with sophisticated Western-supplied weapons, sees recapturing the region as crucial to prevent Russian attempts to seize more territory further west that could eventually cut off its access to the Black Sea.