Zelenskyy says Ukrainian troops advancing on occupied Kherson 'step by step'

Rising confidence that strategic Black Sea region will be liberated from Russians within weeks

A Ukrainian soldier inspects a destroyed Russian tank near the front line in Kharkiv region. AFP
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Ukrainian troops are advancing "step by step" on the southern occupied Black Sea region of Kherson, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said, as an official declared the battle had reached a "turning point".

Sergiy Khlan, an aide to the administrative head of Kherson, predicted a victory for Ukrainian forces in the region in the next few weeks.

“We can say that a turning point has occurred on the battlefield,” Mr Khlan said in an interview with Ukrainian TV. “We are switching from defensive to counteroffensive actions.

“We can say that the Kherson region will definitely be liberated by September, and all the occupiers’ plans will fail.”

The strategic port city fell to invading forces in the early days of the invasion and troops also captured surrounding territory.

Russian commanders are facing a dilemma over whether to channel extra resources to the Donbas offensive or galvanise defences in the west of Ukraine, Britain’s Ministry of Defence said on Twitter.

The MoD tweets noted that hundreds of damaged Russian armoured vehicles were piling up as the invasion of Ukraine entered its sixth month.

It said: “Inconclusive fighting continues in both the Donbas and Kherson sectors. Russian commanders continue to face a dilemma; whether to resource the offensive in the east, or to bolster the defence in the west.”

The ministry said that on July 18, British intelligence identified a Russian military vehicle refit and refurbishment plant near Barvinok, in Russia's Belgorod region, only 10 kilometres from the Ukrainian border.

“At least 300 damaged vehicles were present, including main battle tanks, armoured personnel carriers and general support trucks,” the MoD said.

“In addition to its well-documented personnel problems, Russia likely continues to struggle to extract and repair the thousands of combat vehicles which have been damaged in action in Ukraine.”

Ukraine's military said its forces had moved within range of targets in Kherson.

President Zelenskyy said the Russians had “tried to gain a foothold” in the region and they had made “false forecasts” about their achievements.

“But how did it help them?” he said. “The Armed Forces of Ukraine are advancing step by step in the region.”

As Ukraine prepares for its national day on July 28, Mr Zelenskyy said: "We will celebrate against all odds because Ukrainians won't be cowed."

On Saturday, UK defence officials reported heavy fighting near Kherson.

As Russian forces continued to make gains in the Donbas, Ukraine’s coal-mining heartland, the Ukrainians carried out strikes on Dnipro River bridges. This tactic is likely part of Kyiv’s plant to loosen Moscow’s grip on the Kherson region.

Updated: July 25, 2022, 10:00 AM