Ukraine army makes progress in south against Russian defences

Ukraine’s forces have advanced in the south of the country, where they face a complex network of Russian fortifications and minefields. The US government praised their “notable progress” in the past 72 hours, while Ukraine’s foreign minister urged critics to “shut up” and join the fight.

Ukraine aims to split Russian land corridor to Crimea

The Ukrainian counter-offensive in the south is aimed at cutting off the Russian land corridor to Crimea, the peninsula that Russia annexed in 2014. The corridor runs through the Zaporizhzhia region, where Ukraine’s military said it had captured the village of Robotyne earlier this week.

White House security spokesman John Kirby said Kyiv had achieved some success against the second line of Russian defences, but admitted that the push was going slower than hoped. He said the US was providing Ukraine with “robust” military assistance, including weapons, ammunition and intelligence support.

Russia has built up an elaborate system of trenches and tunnels in the south, defended by minefields, artillery positions and so-called “dragon’s teeth” anti-tank concrete barriers. Ukraine has requested more advanced weapons from its allies in the West, such as tanks, de-mining equipment and warplanes.

Ukraine army makes progress in south against Russian defences

Russia claims gains in north-eastern Ukraine

In the north-east of Ukraine, Russia has massed forces to recapture territory that Ukraine liberated east of Kharkiv. Russia claims to have taken strategic heights near the city of Kupiansk, but this has not been independently verified.

Ukraine’s foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba told CNN that Kyiv’s forces were advancing in both directions, but acknowledged that “it’s a tough fight”. He said Ukraine was facing a “hybrid war” that involved not only military aggression, but also cyberattacks, propaganda and economic pressure.

Kuleba also expressed irritation with those who criticised the pace of Ukraine’s counter-offensive. “I would recommend all critics to shut up, come to Ukraine and try to liberate one square centimetre by themselves,” he said at a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Spain.

Putin invokes World War Two victory in school lecture

Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, after years of supporting separatist rebels in the Donbas region. The war has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced millions more.

On Friday, Putin told pupils at the start of the school year that Russia’s triumph in World War Two proved that their nation was invincible. “I understood why we won the Great Patriotic War,” he said in a lecture designed to strengthen patriotism in schools. “It is impossible to defeat this kind of nation with this kind of attitude. We were absolutely invincible. And we are the same now.”

The Kremlin’s so-called “important conversations” were introduced in schools after the Russian invasion began. Russia’s military also announced on Friday that it had put a new strategic nuclear missile system, called Sarmat, “on combat duty”. The long-range missiles have multiple warheads and can evade missile defence systems.

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