PRAGUE – Ukrainian forces are showing signs of success on the battlefield in two counter-offensives, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said, adding that the United States would support Kyiv in its fight against the invasion of Russian troops “as long as necessary”.
Austin’s comments in Prague on September 9 came amid mounting evidence that Ukrainian troops have made progress in the southern Kherson region and in districts east and southeast of Kharkiv, the second most major city in Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy praised the military for its gains in the east, saying in his overnight video address that Ukrainian troops had retaken more than 30 settlements in the Kharkiv region since the counteroffensive began this week.
“We are gradually taking over more settlements, returning the Ukrainian flag and protecting our people.” Zelensky said.
“Our army, intelligence services and the Security Service of Ukraine are continuing active actions in several operational directions. They are continuing successfully,” he noted.
While Kherson has been at the center of major fighting for a few weeks now, the Kharkiv push has unfolded over the past two days with what appears to be lightning speed.
Live briefing: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine
RFE/RL Live briefing gives you all the latest developments on the ongoing invasion of Russia, how Kyiv is fighting back, Western military aid, the global response and the plight of civilians. For all of RFE/RL’s coverage of the war, click here.
“We see success in Kherson now,” Austin told reporters in Prague after meeting his Czech counterpart, Jana Cernochova.
“We are seeing some success in Kharkiv and so that is very encouraging,” he added.
In his September 8 nightly video address, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy claimed that Ukrainian troops had “liberated dozens of settlements” and recaptured more than 1,000 square kilometers from Russian forces last week.
The Ukrainian General Staff, for its part, claims that the troops advanced 50 kilometers east and southeast of Kharkiv in three days.
Austin praised the combat capabilities of the Ukrainian troops, saying, “We were all impressed with what we saw. Their willingness to stand up to a much bigger and stronger force and to be effective in their efforts. So we were inspired by their courage and commitment,” he said.
” You heard [U.S.] President [Joe] Biden says, and you’ve heard me say many times, we’re going to support Ukraine for as long as it takes,” he added.
Austin was among more than 50 defense ministers who gathered this week at Ramstein Air Base in Germany for the fifth meeting of a Ukraine defense contact group.
Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhaylo Podolyak told the Ukrainian service of RFE/RL that the Kyiv government was “absolutely satisfied” with the meeting.
The defense ministers discussed defense policy, not politics, and analyzed the course of the war and the weapons Ukraine needs, as well as specific plans to supply them, he said. he declares.
He added that it was important for the contact group to decide that “Ukraine will receive all necessary weapons” and decide in principle not to pay attention to statements made by Russia.
Russian officials have said nothing about the situation on either front in Ukraine or about Ukrainian successes, although pro-Russian military bloggers have been documenting major battle-line movements in the two places.
But on September 9, the Russian-appointed administrator for the occupied Kharkiv regions told Rossia-24 TV that Ukraine had won a “substantial victory” in the eastern region.
“The situation is quite serious now,” said Vitaly Ganchev. “The very fact that there was a breach in our defenses is already a substantial victory for the Ukrainian Armed Forces.”
LOOK; US support for Ukraine’s fight against the Russian invasion will continue “as long as it takes”, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in Prague on Sept. 9. and Kharkiv.
Just after noon on September 9, a Russian rocket hit central Kharkiv, injuring at least 10 people, regional administrator Oleh Synehubov said in a message to Telegram.
The president’s chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, said the attacks were likely revenge for Ukraine’s success on the battlefield.
“For every success of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, for every victory, the Russians … respond with strikes against innocent people,” Yermak said. wrote on Telegramconfirming that children were among the injured.
On September 8, US officials announced another $675 million arms package for Ukraine, along with a $2 billion pledge made the same day to bolster security across Europe. . This brings the total amount of US military supplies sent to Kyiv since the February 24 Russian invasion to more than $15.2 billion.
If Ukraine’s two counter-offensives prove to be long-lasting and significant, they would further fuel doubts about Russian combat strength and manpower, as well as the tactics of Russian commanders. They would also add questions to the Kremlin’s ultimate goals for the invasion, which have changed several times over the past seven months.
Earlier this week, President Vladimir Putin showed no indication that Russian authorities were considering reducing the pace of fighting or cutting their losses in Ukraine.
“We haven’t lost anything and won’t lose anything,” he told an economic forum in Vladivostok.
US and Western officials estimate that Russia has recorded up to 80,000 casualties since the invasion, at least a quarter of whom were killed in action. The latest official death toll from the Russian Defense Ministry was 1,351, as of the end of March.
During a visit to NATO headquarters in Brussels on September 9, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken appeared to berate Putin, suggesting he was ruthlessly sacrificing Russian lives by prolonging the fight.
“There are a lot of Russian forces that are in Ukraine and unfortunately, tragically, horribly, President Putin has demonstrated that he is going to throw a lot of people in there at a huge cost for Russia, at a huge cost for its future,” Blinken said. .