The Ukrainian army says it has begun a counteroffensive within the nation’s south to take again key territory occupied by the Russians early within the battle.
AILSA CHANG, HOST:
The Ukrainian army says it’s starting assaults within the southern a part of the nation to take again territory captured by the Russians. Ukrainian officers have talked a few main counteroffensive for months, however the army has didn’t recapture a lot territory.
For extra on what’s taking place on the bottom and what it means, we flip now to NPR Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman and NPR’s Frank Langfitt, who was close to the entrance traces this morning in Ukraine’s Mykolaiv area. Hello to each of you.
TOM BOWMAN, BYLINE: Hey, Ailsa.
FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: Hello, Ailsa.
CHANG: So, Frank, let’s begin with you. How is Ukraine explaining what precisely is going on proper now?
LANGFITT: You recognize, the Southern Command down right here is saying the Ukrainian Military is attacking the Russians from a number of instructions. And I feel, in the end, the aim could be to take again the Kherson area and Kherson metropolis. It is a strategic port that leads into the Black Sea. It is also symbolic. It is the one regional capital to fall to the Russians. However precisely how huge this effort we’re seeing simply immediately shouldn’t be clear.
I would been in contact with various troopers within the subject immediately, and I requested, you already know, is that this the long-promised counteroffensive that we have been listening to about from the federal government? And one stated, I hope so. One other stated issues appeared a bit summary. One other stated this undoubtedly is. And even one other stated, nicely, it is the beginning of one thing, however he wasn’t fairly positive what. So I feel that, even within the battlefield, it is not solely clear what is going on on, and we’ll should see how this performs out over the subsequent few days.
CHANG: OK, nicely, Tom, how is the Pentagon framing what’s taking place?
BOWMAN: Nicely, we had a background briefing with a senior army official, and he stated name the Ukrainians and ask them what is going on on. And I stated, nicely, we’re speaking to you. And he stated he is seen an uptick in preventing across the Kherson space; no particulars or any offensive or counteroffensive. He stated Ukrainians are making some small advances. And we pressed him on it and stated, you already know, is that this a counteroffensive or not? And he stated, nicely, you already know, there’s some offensive strikes. Is that this a bigger counteroffensive? He stated, I do not know. We’ll know extra within the subsequent 24 to 48 hours.
And earlier immediately, I spoke with one other official who additionally was extra circumspect. He stated, hear, the Ukrainians have executed a very good job at shaping the battlefield – hitting Russian command facilities, troop concentrations, weapon depots – behind the traces in preparation for a counteroffensive. However he stated it stays to be seen if that is the beginning of one thing huge.
You recognize, I used to be speaking to a army intelligence official, and he stated, what’s the aim if there’s a counteroffensive? Is it Kherson? Is it someplace else? And likewise, if you happen to can seize Kherson, then what? Are you able to maintain it? That is going to be key. I feel lots of people do not imagine that Ukraine can push out Russian forces from all the nation.
CHANG: OK. Nicely, whether or not that is actually a counteroffensive or not, Frank, as we talked about, you had been out close to the entrance traces immediately. Did you see a lot proof that Ukrainians are certainly stepping up assaults?
LANGFITT: Yeah, I did. I went to this small village to interview infantry. And once I arrived, I discovered they’d been despatched to the entrance traces, which was clearly an indication of one thing. And I used to be speaking to the native village head, and he or she informed me the Ukrainians had taken two villages in a single day. And as I used to be speaking to her, I began to listen to an increasing number of outgoing artillery, noticed extra tanks, armored personnel carriers shifting shortly alongside the roads. And eventually, the press officer who was escorting us signaled me to wrap up the interview, and we shortly headed out of the village for our personal security.
CHANG: Nicely, what I wish to perceive is – Ukrainians have been speaking a few counteroffensive for fairly some time now. What has been holding that up?
LANGFITT: Nicely, they have been making actually – identical to Tom was saying, they have been making actually sluggish progress. The village the place I used to be this morning, Ailsa – in April, it was a mile from the entrance traces. At the moment, it is about six miles. So meaning the progress is 5 miles in 4 months. The Ukrainians say that the Russians are nicely dug in. They’ve despatched much more troops right down to the Kherson area. And so they additionally say that the Russians nonetheless have them outgunned.
Now, in latest months, there was a change. The Ukrainians have extra long-range, extra exact weapons – we’re speaking about what are known as M777 Howitzers from the Individuals in addition to the HIMAR rockets, that are – frankly, the Ukrainian troops rave about. I even noticed some final week launch from a subject. They’re extremely efficient and correct, however the Ukrainians preserve saying they merely haven’t got sufficient of those, which, Ailsa, raises the query – you already know, are you able to mount an enormous offensive and achieve success with out extra of those heavy weapons?
BOWMAN: And alongside these traces, they’re additionally – over per week in the past, the Pentagon stated, we’ll ship dozens of armored automobiles – MRAPs, they’re known as – up-armored Humvees and likewise armored automobiles with rollers on the entrance to detonate mines, which you’d want for some type of a counteroffensive; additionally, surveillance drones and likewise kamikaze ones that would assault Russian armor or troop concentrations. That was just a bit over per week in the past. All that stuff could be very important in a counteroffensive. The query is, has it arrived but? And we actually do not know at this level, however that tells you they clearly are getting ready for one thing huge.
CHANG: Nicely, Tom, are you able to simply clarify why a counteroffensive, notably now, is so vital for Ukraine?
BOWMAN: Nicely, once more, Ukrainians and a few Western officers have been telegraphing a counteroffensive for some time now. However, once more, simply final week, a senior protection official stated there’s been little motion from both the Ukrainians or the Russian forces. It has been that means for weeks. So I feel, as extra tools is available in from the West, Ukraine realizes it should present it could seize and likewise maintain floor. That is vital for each its residents and likewise for U.S. and NATO international locations. And earlier than winter units in, I feel there must be progress, or you are going to see some voices, particularly in Europe – and Frank is aware of this higher than anybody – may begin calling for talks to finish the battle. It is taken an enormous toll, particularly on the European financial system and likewise its vitality wants.
LANGFITT: Yeah, the best worry once I discuss to Ukrainian commanders is that they will not have sufficient weapons from their perspective, they usually’ll find yourself having to go to a negotiating desk with a weak hand and find yourself having to be ready the place they could should cede land, which they completely do not wish to do. Why the sense of urgency proper now? In a number of months, there will not be any leaves on the timber down right here. That is flat farm land. And so it will not be attainable to mount offensives since you’ll haven’t any place for canopy. You may be fully uncovered.
LANGFITT: And one commander I used to be speaking to was simply actually anxious and stated, you already know, we’re operating out of time to have the ability to do a lot proper now.
CHANG: That was NPR’s Frank Langfitt and Tom Bowman. Thanks to you each.
BOWMAN: You are welcome.
LANGFITT: Nice to speak, Ailsa.
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