Russia Reports Widespread Drone Attacks on Country: Ukraine Live Updates

Russia Reports Widespread Drone Attacks on Country: Ukraine Live Updates
A woman walking past a damaged building in the Russian-occupied city of Tokmak, in January, in a photograph from Russian state news media.Credit…Alexander Galperin/Sputnik, via Associated Press

As Ukrainian forces push forward to try to secure the patch of land that they have retaken in the south, a strategic target looms: the city of Tokmak, a road-and-rail hub whose recapture could eventually help Kyiv drive deep enough into Russian-controlled territory to split Moscow’s forces and supply lines.

Ukraine’s military said on Monday that its forces had breached Russia’s initial lines of defense in the area and recaptured Robotyne, a village that connects to Tokmak — 15 miles farther to the south — by a highway, though the two are separated by yet more layers of robust Russian defenses.

Ukraine started its long-awaited counteroffensive in June, and its successes have been measured in increments. In a sign of the daunting task, it took months of fierce combat to seize Robotyne, and Ukrainian officials said in recent days that they were still securing positions in the village as they demine the area and look to edge farther south.

“We had successes and are consolidating the achieved positions,” Andriy Kovalev, a spokesman for the military’s general staff said on Tuesday, adding that Ukrainian troops were advancing toward Verbove, a village about five miles southeast of Robotyne. His claim could not be independently verified.

Controlling Robotyne and its surrounding area could allow Ukraine to use it as a base to prepare and launch attacks on targets farther south. Oleksandr Shtupun, a spokesman for Ukraine’s military in the southern Zaporizhzhia region, said this week that consolidating their foothold in Robotyne would mean that Ukrainian forces could bring more troops to the area, providing greater opportunities for maneuver.

Damage in Robotyne, Ukraine, last week.Credit…Viacheslav Ratynskyi/Reuters

Tokmak is a key target for the Ukrainian Army because it is the crossing point for five main roads in the Zaporizhzhia region, including two that connect to the cities of Melitopol and Berdiansk, near the Sea of Azov. Reaching the Sea of Azov would allow Ukraine to drive a wedge into the so-called land bridge between Russia and Russian-occupied Crimea, a link that is vital to Moscow’s supply routes.

Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s foreign minister, said in a speech to French diplomats in Paris on Tuesday that after securing the flanks of Robotyne, “we are opening the way to Tokmak and, ultimately, Melitopol and the border with Crimea.”

But Mr. Shtupun, the army spokesman, acknowledged that the push toward Tokmak would not be easy. “I think the Russians will not leave this settlement easily, and Ukrainian forces will have to fight for it,” he said.

Satellite images show that to reach Tokmak, Ukrainian forces would have to breach two more formidable Russian defensive lines made up of trenches, dense minefields, earthen berms and anti-tank barriers — part of an extensive network of defenses that military analysts say is the biggest in Europe since World War II.

Securing Tokmak, a city that had a prewar population of about 30,000 people, also poses its own challenges. Once through the anti-tank traps surrounding the city, Ukrainian forces would have to fight through tall buildings and narrow side streets in close-quarter combat that would most likely be deadly for both sides.

Kyiv’s troops are still a long way from Tokmak, but Ukrainian officials claim that recent advances appear to have caused concern among the occupying Russian authorities there. On Tuesday, Ivan Fedorov, the Ukrainian mayor in exile of Melitopol, said that, according to local residents, some Russian officials were leaving Tokmak as the fighting drew closer.

The Ukrainians “are forcing the occupiers to leave Tokmak,” Mr. Fedorov wrote in a post on the Telegram messaging app. The claim could not be independently verified.