JAKARTA - Ukraine announced on Monday that its troops had managed to retake seven villages from Russian forces along a front about 100 km (60 miles) in the southeast, since starting its long-awaited counteroffensive last week.

The task of ending the Russian occupation of southern and eastern Ukraine is thorny, given Russia's numerical, ammunition and air power advantages, as well as the months required to build deep fortifications, especially in southern Ukraine.

Despite the rain and heavy fighting, Ukrainian troops are making headway on the battlefield, President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a video speech late on Monday.

"The fighting was fierce, but we have movement and that is very important," President Zelensky said, citing Reuters, June 13.

"The defeat of the enemy is what we need," he said.

Soldiers can be seen in the video holding Ukrainian flags in the village of Storozheve, along the Mokri Yaly River which flows north from Russian-controlled territory. Reuters confirmed the location.

On Sunday, Ukraine said its troops advancing south had liberated three nearby villages along the Mokri Yaly: Blahodatne, Neskuchne and Makarivka.

Ukranian Military
President Zelensky visiting Ukrainian troops at the front. (President.gov.ua)

Meanwhile, Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said in a telegram post late on Monday that Ukrainian troops had also recaptured Levadne and Novodarivka, about 10 km (6 miles) west of Mokri Yaly, as well as Lobkove, southeast of the city of Zaporizhzhia.

Maliar said his troops had advanced 6.5 km and controlled an area of ​​90 square kilometers (35 square miles). The captured territory is only a fraction of the 40.000 square miles still under Russian occupation.

Maliar added that the seven settlements were taken over during the past week, without providing details on exactly when. Meanwhile, it is impossible to verify all battlefield claims.

Separately, Moscow has yet to officially recognize Ukraine's advances. However, prominent Russian military bloggers say Ukrainian forces have in fact captured Blahodatne, Neskuchne, and Makarivka, to continue moving south.

The Russian Defense Ministry on Monday repeated its routine statement over the past week that it had repelled attempted attacks in the Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia regions.

Eight Ukrainian drones were destroyed and an ammunition depot hit in eastern Ukraine, the ministry said.

Ukranian Military
Ukrainian war vehicles in Bakhmut. (Wikimedia Commons/30th Prince Konstanty Ostrogski Mechanized Brigade)

The offensive is Ukraine's fastest advance in seven months, although it is still far from a major breakthrough.

The furthest claimed advance by Kyiv leaves its troops still some 90 km (55 miles) from the coast of the Sea of ​​Azov, as well as a prize for cutting Russia's "land bridge" to Crimea, a peninsula Russia seized from Ukraine in 2014.

A Ukrainian defense spokesman said Russia had blown up a dam at Mokri Yaly to make it difficult for Ukrainian forces to advance further south. Last week, a dam on the much larger Dnipro (Kakhovka) River collapsed, causing a humanitarian disaster in parts of the south, with Moscow and Kyiv blaming each other.

Ukrainian forces have also launched attacks at other locations along the long front, probing Russian weaknesses, though providing few details so far.

Ukraine relies on the tens of billions of dollars worth of weapons, training, and intelligence it has received from the West, combined with the determination, tactics, and motivation to drive invaders out of its own country, to give it an edge.

In the United States, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Monday it was too early to say exactly where the Ukrainian counterattack was headed. However, Washington is confident that Kyiv will continue to achieve success.

Some Western military analysts also say it is too early to draw conclusions, with the skirmishes so far possibly indicating Ukraine is still testing Russia's defenses.

The US-based Institute for the Study of War said Ukraine was attempting "a very difficult tactical operation - a frontal attack on prepared defensive positions, which was complicated by a lack of air superiority", and that the initial strike should not be over-interpreted.

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