As Kyiv and Washington debate where Ukraine should commit troops along the war’s front line, Ukraine’s top general in the east has called for more reinforcements in a patch of territory where Russia is threatening to make additional gains.
Russian forces have managed to push forward around the northeastern Ukrainian city of Kupiansk in recent weeks as Kyiv’s forces have made slow headway in their continuing counteroffensive in the south and the east. Russia’s gains, while not significant, have led Ukrainian forces to dedicate some troops to defend parts of the sprawling front line, which stretches for several hundred miles, despite their need elsewhere.
“Enemy units continue to inflict damage with artillery, mortars and aircraft,” the general, Oleksandr Syrsky, the commander of Ukraine’s eastern forces, said on the Telegram messaging app on Friday. “Under such conditions, we must promptly take all measures to strengthen our defenses on the threatened lines and advance where possible.”
The debate over Ukraine’s strategy has spilled into public view in recent days amid a flurry of news media reports, including from The New York Times, in which U.S. officials have blamed Ukraine’s slow progress in large part on its strategy. Under the Pentagon’s reasoning, Kyiv should have committed an outsize number of forces on one portion of the front line to attempt a breakthrough. Ukrainian commanders have instead tried to divide troops and firepower in a manner that they consider to be as fair and as equal as possible between the east and south.
President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine responded bluntly to the American criticism this past week, saying that shifting Ukrainian forces away from places like Kupiansk, in the Kharkiv region, is what Russia is trying to accomplish.
“We will not give up Kharkiv, Donbas, Pavlohrad or Dnipro. And that’s that,” he said during a news conference on Wednesday according to the Ukrainian Pravda news outlet. “And let all the analysts in the world not even count on it.”
General Syrsky’s remarks were another reminder that despite the public focus on the counteroffensive in the south, other parts of the front line remain volatile.
“The enemy is now regrouping its forces and means, while also transferring the newly formed brigades and divisions from the territory of Russia,” General Syrsky said. “Russia’s key objective is to increase the level of combat potential and resume active offensive actions.” His claims about the arrival of new units could not be independently confirmed.
Here’s what else is happening in the war:
Russia said it had shot down a Ukrainian drone in the Moscow region early Saturday morning, the latest in more than a dozen attempted drone attacks at the Russian capital and surrounding areas in August. The drone was destroyed by air defenses in the Istra district, northwest of Moscow, according to the Russian Defense Ministry.
U.S. officials said Kyiv’s more frequent unmanned attacks were intended to demonstrate to the Ukrainian public that it could strike back in the midst of the slow-moving counteroffensive. Ukraine has not directly claimed responsibility for the drones.
Victoria Kim contributed reporting from Seoul, and Nataliia Novosolova from Kyiv.