Ukrainian Military Says Its Troops Continue Push To Sever Russia’s Land Bridge To Crimea

The Ukrainian military says its forces continue to advance in the areas near the cities of Melitopol and Berdyansk after making gains on the southeastern front in their attempt to drive toward the Sea of Azov and cut off Russia’s land bridge to Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.

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The push toward Melitopol comes amid a U.S. intelligence report that Ukrainian forces do not appear likely to reach and retake the Russian-occupied strategic city of Melitopol during the ongoing counteroffensive.

An unnamed official who commented to Reuters on August 18 said that, despite the report and limited progress toward Melitopol, Washington believed it was still possible to change the gloomy outlook.

The U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, was commenting on an intelligence report that The Washington Post quoted the day before.

The newspaper reported that an assessment by the U.S. intelligence community had concluded that the counteroffensive will fail to reach Melitopol, preventing Kyiv from meeting its objective of severing Russia’s land bridge to the peninsula, which was illegally annexed by Russia in 2014.

The prediction is largely in line with Washington’s view that the counteroffensive is going slower than expected.

White House national-security adviser Jake Sullivan declined to comment, according to Reuters, but he said there had been a number of analyses about the war in Ukraine and many of them had changed as events unfolded.

Russia controls nearly a fifth of Ukraine, including the Crimean Peninsula, most of the Luhansk region, and large tracts of the regions of Donetsk, Zaporizhzhya, and Kherson.

The General Staff of the Ukrainian military said in its evening assessment that there had been 30 combat clashes along the front line during the day.

It said Russian forces carried out one missile and 31 air strikes and 45 attacks from rocket salvo systems on Ukrainian troop positions and populated areas.

The Ukrainian forces that are conducting the offensive operation in the Melitopol and Berdyansk directions are entrenched at the boundaries reached thus far and are carrying out countermeasures, the General Staff said.

Ukrainian air defense forces “carried out nine strikes on areas where the enemy’s personnel, weapons. and military equipment are concentrated,” the General Staff said.

Ukrainian forces have been pushing forward from the village of Urozhayne, which they claimed to have liberated on August 16, the General Staff said.

As Ukraine moves ahead with its counteroffensive, a report in The New York Times on August 18 showed just how costly the war has been to the armed forces of both sides. The newspaper cited unidentified U.S. officials saying the number of Ukrainian and Russian troops killed or wounded is nearing 500,000.

On the Russian side, military casualties are approaching 300,000, including as many as 120,000 deaths, the report said. Ukrainian deaths were close to 70,000, with as many as 120,000 wounded, it added.

Mykhaylo Podolyak, a senior adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said only the General Staff could disclose such figures.

“We have adopted a model that only the General Staff has the right to voice the figures on the wounded, the disabled, people who lost limbs, and the missing, and, of course, the number of people who died in this war,” he said in a broadcast on YouTube.

Moscow has not officially released data on its war dead since early in the war.

With reporting by Reuters and RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service

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