Ukraine says counteroffensive on-track as missiles hit Russian-held southeast

Kyiv issues warnings and emergency instructions over fears for occupied nuclear plant

Ukraine has insisted that its counteroffensive is on-track but played down expectations of rapid gains, as it struck a suspected Russian base in occupied territory and issued fresh warnings over Moscow’s alleged plans for the biggest nuclear power plant in Europe.

Kyiv says its troops have liberated eight villages and more than 100 sq km of territory spanning the border between the partially-occupied Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia regions since launching their long-awaited counterattack against the Kremlin’s invasion force this month.

However, Russia insists that Ukraine has made no significant gains and has suffered huge losses to personnel and equipment, while Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy acknowledged this week that initial progress in the campaign was “slower than desired”.

The Ukrainian military said on Friday that its forces had enjoyed “partial success” in consolidating recently gained territory in Zaporizhzhia region – where many analysts predict a major push to try to break Russia’s land access to occupied Crimea on the Black Sea – and had thwarted Russian attacks to the northeast in parts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions.


“Indeed, we still have the main events ahead of us. And the main blow is still to come. Indeed, some of the reserves…will be activated later,” said deputy defence minister Hanna Maliar.

“In the military, according to their reports and positions, everything is moving according to plan. It is not necessary to expect the offensive to be something very fast,” she added. “Every day we are advancing, every day. Yes, it is gradual, but our forces are gaining a foothold on these lines and are advancing steadily.”

The counteroffensive is not a new season of a Netflix show. There is no need to expect action and buy popcorn.

—  Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy,

Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Mr Zelenskiy, chided those in the media and elsewhere who were already hinting that the counteroffensive may be facing failure, and told Kyiv’s allies that delays in providing key weapons had made Ukraine’s task much harder.

“Real war is not a Hollywood blockbuster. The counteroffensive is not a new season of a Netflix show. There is no need to expect action and buy popcorn. Offensive operations of the armed forces of Ukraine continue in a number of areas. Formation operations are underway to set up the battlefield,” he said on Twitter.

“The time lost in convincing our partners to provide the necessary weapons is reflected in the specific Russian fortifications built during this period,” he added. “Breaking the Russian front today requires a reasonable and balanced approach…The military command focuses on military science and intelligence, not on fans in the stands.”

A day after hitting a bridge serving occupied Crimea with what local collaborationist officials said were British-supplied Storm Shadow cruise missiles, Ukraine’s air force said on Friday it struck buildings in the Russian-held town of Henichesk, close to Crimea.

Local sources said the buildings served as a base for members of Russia’s national guard, while occupation officials accused Ukraine of hitting “residential areas” of Henichesk and nearby Skadovsk, another Moscow-held town in Kherson region.

Radiation leak

Ukraine has urged the world to act to ensure Moscow does not cause a radiation leak at the occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station, just weeks after Russian forces were widely blamed for the destruction of the nearby Kakhovka dam, causing disastrous flooding on the Dnipro river.

Moscow denies blowing up the dam or planning any incident at the power station.

Kyiv’s interior minister Ihor Klymenko said that if an emergency occurred at the plant, people nearby should stay inside with doors and windows closed and sealed for a day, while the radiation level dropped and detailed instructions were announced.

Mr Zelenskiy said on Friday it was unacceptable that many bomb shelters around Ukraine were unusable or inaccessible, and that officials would be held responsible for it.

Daniel McLaughlin

Daniel McLaughlin

Daniel McLaughlin is a contributor to The Irish Times from central and eastern Europe