By Kathleen Magramo, CNN
Updated 1:47 AM EDT, Wed August 9, 2023
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CNN gets rare look at trenches in Southern Ukraine
03:52 - Source: CNN
- Ukraine’s counteroffensive hasn’t been easy andis “happening probably slower” than some had hoped, President Volodymyr Zelensky has acknowledged.
- Western officials describeincreasingly “sobering” assessments about Kyiv’s ability toretake significant territory, senior US and Western officials told CNN. US National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said the offensive is “not without its difficulties, but they keep trying.”
- Two “combat drones” were shot down in the Moscow suburbs, the city’s mayor said, the latest in a string of drone attack attempts this summer on Russian cities.
- Meanwhile, a “double-tap” Russian strike Monday on a residential building in the eastern city of Pokrovsk killed nine people and injured dozens, officials said.
An 18-year-old man was killed and three other men were wounded after Russian shelling hit the southern Ukrainian district of Nikopol, a local military official said Wednesday.
Serhii Lysak, head of the Dnipropetrovsk regional military administration, said those injured had suffered mine-blast trauma and shrapnel wounds.
The shelling also damaged power lines, homes and a church, he added.
Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks during a press conference in Vilnius, Lithuania on July 12.
One of Ukraine’s greatest tragedies as it pursuesa critical offensivethat has, so far,failed to meetits own and Western expectations is that it cannot, by itself, decide its destiny.
President Volodymyr Zelensky’sgovernment is dependent on a massive pipeline of US and Western armaments. And Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose historical obsessions and personal power calculations thrust Ukraine into this horrific war, will also have a great say in if and when it ends.
So, while battlefield sacrifices will decide how much seized territory Ukraine recovers, the outcome of the war will also be shaped by outside factors, including shifting political forces in the US, Moscow and European capitals.
A stalled offensive and a winter stalemate, for instance, would have particular ramifications in the United States since it could heighten questions over US support for the war that will be pushed into an acrimonious election year.
Americans are braced for a potential clash between President Joe Biden, who revived the Western alliance and is Ukraine’s most critical outside supporter, and ex-President Donald Trump, a NATO skeptic who admires Putin and has pledged to end the war in 24 hours, likely on Putin’s terms. And even if Trump is not the GOP nominee in 2024, ebbing public support for the war could hurt Biden.
Therefore, for political, as well as strategic reasons, there is huge pressure on Ukraine’s long-awaited counteroffensive this summer to produce significant battlefield breakthroughs.
But so far, the push is more of a slog than a blitzkrieg, raising the possibility the war could last at least deep into next year. If so, the elastic equation that underpins the entire conflict — involving Ukraine’s capacity to fight, Americans’ appetite for multi-billion dollar aid packages and Putin’s tolerance for horrendous casualties — will be even more taut.
Read Collinson’s full analysis here.
A woman sits in her flat at an apartment building destroyed during a Russian missile strike inPokrovsk, Ukraine on August 8.
A White House official says the US is aware Ukraine’s counteroffensiveisn’t progressing as quickly as was expected, following CNNreporting that describes increasingly “sobering” assessments from Western officials about Kyiv’s forces’ ability to retake significant territory.
“Even the Ukrainians … including President (Volodymyr) Zelensky, have said that they’re not going as far or as fast as he would like,” National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer Tuesday.
Ukraine’s offensive is “not without its difficulties, but they keep trying,” he said.
On Tuesday, Ukraine claimed some advances in the southern Zaporizhzhia region despite troops’ movement being slowed by mines.
Hee are the latest headlines from Russia’s war in Ukraine:
- Moscow targeted: Two “combat drones” were shot down in the Moscow suburbs early Wednesday, the capital’s mayor said — the latest in a string of drone attack attempts this summer on Russian cities. There is no information on casualties and a response team was working on the scene, he added.
- Wagner camp claim: Theconstruction of a new camp to host Wagner Group fighters has begun in the Zyabrovka Air Base in Belarus, Ukrainian authorities claimed Tuesday. Ukraine’s National Resistance Center warned of future efforts to use the fighters “to simulate subversive activities on the border with [Ukraine’s] Chernihiv region.”CNN cannot independently verify the claims.
- Russian strikes: As Ukraine reels from the latest round of Russian missile attacks, residents in theeastern city of Pokrovskrecalled the harrowing experience of a“double-tap” strike Monday that left at least nine people dead and 82 injured. “I’d like to say to the Russians: Value the lives. Both your own and ours. And enough of all this, enough. Enough,” Pokrovsk resident Liudmyla told CNN.
- Evacuation call: Meanwhile, Ukrainian authorities are urging residents in the eastern city of Kupyansk to evacuate children and those with limited mobility following a recent escalation of Russian attacks in the area. At least three civilians were killed and nine others injured Tuesday after Russianmissiles hit a village near the city in the Kharkiv region, which was liberated by Ukrainian forces last year.
- Ukrainian shelling: At least three people were killed and 11 others wounded after Ukrainian shelling of Donetsk city, the Moscow-backed head of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic said. He added that a number of civilian infrastructure facilities were hit, while alleging the use of cluster munitions by Kyiv’s forces. CNN is not able to independently verify this claim.
Sergey Sobyanin attends a forum in St. Petersburg, Russia on June 15.
Two drones were shot down in the Moscow suburbs early Wednesday, Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said.
“There was an attempted flight over the city by two ‘combat drones.’ Both were shot down by our air defense,” the mayor said in a message posted to Telegram.
“One of the drones was shot down near Domodedovo, while the other was shot down near the Minsk highway.”
There is an international airport in Domodedovo.
There is no information on casualties and a response team was working on the scene, he added.
Theconstruction of a new camp to host Wagner Group fighters has begun in the Zyabrovka Air Base in Belarus, Ukrainian authorities claimed on Tuesday.
“On the border with Ukraine, in the village of Zyabrovka in the Republic of Belarus, a new camp for ‘Wagner’ PMC mercenaries is being built,” Ukraine’s National Resistance Center said on its website. “In the future, it is planned to use them to simulate subversive activities on the border with the Chernihiv region.”
The center said it obtained this information from “underground sources.”
CNN cannot independently verify the claims.
Zyabrovka is located near Gomel in southeastern Belarus, about 40 kilometers from the border with Ukraine’s Chernihiv region.
Thecampcan house around 1,000 personnel and looks like a tent city, the center said.
It claimed “there remains a high probability” that Belarus and Russia will use the camp to intimidate neighboring European countries in order to create an illusion that “the mercenaries are ready to invade the EU.” This, in turn, could make European nations “reduce their support for Ukraine,” the center claimed.
Some context:Poland recently accused Belarusof violating its airspace, raising tensions between the NATO member and the key Kremlin ally in an increasingly volatile security landscapein Europe. Thousands of Wagner troops were reportedly sent to Belarus after President AlexanderLukashenko reportedly brokered a dealto end the mercenary fighters’ failed rebellionagainst Moscow in June.
John Kirby attends a news briefing at the White House in Washington on March 22.
The US is aware theUkrainian counteroffensiveagainst Russia isn’t progressing as quickly as was expected, White House National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby said Tuesday.
“Even the Ukrainians … including President (Volodymyr) Zelensky, have said that they’re not going as far or as fast as he would like,” Kirby told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Tuesday.
“While they are making progress — and they are — it’s incremental and it’s slow and it’s not without its difficulties, but they keep trying. They’re still at it,” Kirby said. “There is active fighting along that front, they are definitely trying to push forward. How far they’ll get, where that will be, what kind of breakthrough they might be able to achieve? I don’t think anybody can say right now.”
His comments followreporting from CNNthat describes increasingly “sobering” assessments from Western officials about Ukrainian forces’ ability to retake significant territory.
And in a video released by his office Tuesday, Zelenskyacknowledgedthe counteroffensive hasn’t been easy andis “happening probably slower” than some had hoped.
“It is very difficult to be fighting for such a long time — which is obvious. All this is very difficult when you lack this or that equipment,” the Ukrainian leader said in remarks from a meeting Sunday with Latin American media outlets. I know it is difficult for us but I definitely know it is more difficult for the Russians.”
In terms of military aid to Ukraine, Kirby said the US will continue to provide military resources to Kyiv, including mine-clearing equipment, artillery ammunition and High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems.
Local residents stand outside an apartment building damaged by a Russian missile strike inPokrovsk, Donetsk region, Ukraine on August 8.
As Ukraine reels from the latest round of Russian missile attacks, residents in theeastern city of Pokrovskrecalled the harrowing experience of a“double-tap” strike Monday that left at least nine people dead and 82 injured.
“I heard a hum. A very, very loud hum. Then the entire building shook and the windows on our balcony blew out. Half an hour later there was a second hit — it was even louder and even scarier,”Pokrovsk resident Liudmyla told CNN Tuesday.
After the first strike, military personnel warned them to take shelter for a possible second attack — but her husband was stood on the balcony, she said.
“I heard this growing rumble and I shouted for him to get out of there,” she said. “But he didn’t manage, he just fell to the floor and covered his head with hands. He was literally covered in glass.”
The explosion threwLiudmylainto another room. “You’re flying and you don’t realize where you are,” she said. “I just yelled to my husband to see if he was alive. He responded, I crawled to him and shattered the glass.”
She also had a message for the Russian forces laying siege to Ukraine.
Another resident, Alla, whose home is also close to the area that was hit, said she and her husband went outside after the first explosion. When they returned to their apartment after the second explosion, “wesaw there were no windows, no balcony, no electricity,” she said.
“Of course, we were very much scared,” she added. “We were terribly stressed, because it was very loud. We didn’t sleep the whole night. How can one sleep here, when there are no windows?”
Ukrainian authorities are urging residents in the eastern city of Kupyansk to evacuate children and those with limited mobility following a recent escalation of Russian attacks.
At least three civilians were killed and nine others injured Tuesday after Russianmissiles hit a village near the city in the Kharkiv region, which was liberated by Ukrainian forces last year.
“Starting from the de-occupation in September 2022, the Kupyansk community has been constantly suffering from shelling,” Andrii Besedin, head of the Kupyansk city military administration, said Tuesday on national television.
Besedin said Russian attacks now include the use of guided aerial bombs.
City authorities launcheda voluntary evacuation plan in November last year, but a number of residents have chosen to stay.
“We are actively urging people to evacuate children from the territory of our community, emphasizing that life is the most important, and it’s necessary to get out of the danger zone, especially for children and people with limited mobility,”Besedin said.
Russian attacks: Moscow’s forces have stepped up their offensive across the region in an effort to reclaim territory. On Monday, Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said on YouTube that “the Kupyansk direction was probably the hottest” as Russian forces try to regain positions lost last autumn. “They have such a plan — they want to return the territories they lost in Kharkiv region,” she said.
Weeks into Ukraine’s highly anticipated counteroffensive, Western officials describeincreasingly “sobering” assessments about Ukrainian forces’ ability toretake significant territory, four senior US and Western officials briefed on the latest intelligence told CNN.
“They’re still going to see, for the next couple of weeks, if there is a chance of making some progress. But for them to really make progress that would change the balance of this conflict, I think, it’s extremely, highly unlikely,” a senior Western diplomat told CNN.
“Our briefings are sobering. We’re reminded of the challenges they face,” said Rep. Mike Quigley, an Illinois Democrat who recently returned from meetings in Europe with US commanders training Ukrainian armored forces. “This is the most difficult time of the war.”
The primary challenge for Ukrainian forces is thecontinued difficulty of breakingthrough Russia’s multi-layered defensive lines in the eastern andsouthern parts of the country, which are marked by tens of thousands of mines and vast networks of trenches. Ukrainian forces have incurred staggering losses there, leading Ukrainian commanders to hold back some units to regroup and reduce casualties.
“Russians have a number of defensive lines and they [Ukrainian forces] haven’t really gone through the first line,” said a senior Western diplomat. “Even if they would keep on fighting for the next several weeks, if they haven’t been able to make more breakthroughs throughout these last seven, eight weeks, what is the likelihood that they will suddenly, with more depleted forces, make them? Because the conditions are so hard.”
A senior US official said the US recognizes thedifficulties Ukrainian forces are facing,though retains hope for renewed progress.
Multiple officials said the approach of fall, when weather and fighting conditions are expected to worsen, gives Ukrainian forces a limited window to push forward.
Read more here.
Following Ukraine's Revolution of Dignity, Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine and supported pro-Russian separatists fighting the Ukrainian military in the Donbas war. The first eight years of conflict also included naval incidents, cyberwarfare, and heightened political tensions.How much of Ukraine is occupied by Russia? ›
Before 2022, Russia occupied 42,000 km2 (16,000 sq mi) of Ukrainian territory (Crimea, and parts of Donetsk and Luhansk), and occupied an additional 119,000 km2 (46,000 sq mi) after its full-scale invasion by March 2022, a total of 161,000 km2 (62,000 sq mi) or almost 27% of Ukraine's territory.Why is Ukraine important to Russia? ›
Russia has deep cultural, economic, and political bonds with Ukraine, and in many ways Ukraine is central to Russia's identity and vision for itself in the world. Family ties. Russia and Ukraine have strong familial bonds that go back centuries.Which language is spoken in Ukraine? ›
Ukrainian, the official language, belongs with Russian and Belarusian to the East Slavic branch of the Slavic language family. Ukrainian is closely related to Russian but also has distinct similarities to the Polish language.Who is winning war in Ukraine? ›
Morale. If you were to judge who is winning the war based on morale, Ukraine would emerge as the victor, according to all four experts.Is Ukraine a member of NATO? ›
Ukraine applied to integrate with a NATO Membership Action Plan (MAP) in 2008. Plans for NATO membership were shelved by Ukraine following the 2010 presidential election in which Viktor Yanukovych, who preferred to keep the country closer to Russia, was elected President.How many troops does Ukraine have? ›
|Ukrainian Armed Forces|
|Active personnel||~700,000 (2022)|
|Reserve personnel||1,000,000 (2022)|
|Budget||₴1.1 trillion $30.8 billion (2023) + over $100 billion foreign military aid|
Russia occupies Crimea and parts of Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk, Mykolayiv, and Zaporizhzhya Oblasts. In February 2014, armed forces of the Russian Federation seized and occupied Crimea. In March 2014, Russia claimed that Crimea had become part of the Russian Federation.Is Belarus a part of Russia? ›
Occupied by Nazi Germany, Belarus was retaken by Stalin's Russia in 1944 and remained under Soviet control until declaring its sovereignty on July 27, 1990 and independence from the Soviet Union on August 25, 1991.Why is the US helping Ukraine? ›
The United States, our allies, and our partners worldwide are united in support of Ukraine in response to Russia's premeditated, unprovoked, and unjustified war against Ukraine.
Additionally, the United States, United Kingdom, Denmark and the Netherlands contributed funding for additional air-defense missiles for Ukraine, Austin said. Italy also announced its latest tranche of military assistance, and Norway and Germany announced multiyear security assistance packages, he said.How the Ukraine war is affecting the world? ›
The war in Ukraine has an obvious impact on those within the country. Outside of Ukraine, the war also continues to have a major effect on the global markets and food supply. The impact of the armed conflict on grain exports has worsened a global hunger crisis, with catastrophic impacts throughout the world.What foods do Ukrainians eat? ›
The most famous traditional Ukrainian dishes are borshch, varenyky, holubtsi, Chicken Kyiv, banosh, and syrnyky, and it surely is not an exhaustive list. Borshch (sometimes written as borsch, borsht, bortsch, or borshch) is a sour soup with distinctive red colour.What is hello in Ukrainian language? ›
The most popular phrase is “pryvit” – which is the equivalent of “hi” or “hello” in Ukrainian.What events led to Russia invading Ukraine? ›
On 24 February 2022, Russia launched a military invasion of Ukraine in a steep escalation of the Russo-Ukrainian War. The campaign had been preceded by a Russian military buildup since early 2021 and numerous Russian demands for security measures and legal prohibitions against Ukraine joining NATO.