Russia has admitted for the first time that some ukrainian forces They have crossed to the eastern bank of the Dnieper River, but have said they face “hellfire” and that the average life expectancy of a Ukrainian soldier there is about two days.
The Ukrainian president’s chief of staff, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said on Tuesday that Ukrainian forces had secured a foothold on the east bank of the Dnipro River in the southern Kherson region, the first official recognition of its kind. And on Wednesday, the country’s military said troops are trying to push back Russian forces along the river, calling for operational “silence” along what it described as a “fairly fluid” front line.
Vladimir Saldo, the Russian-installed governor of the part of the Kherson region that Moscow controls, acknowledged in a statement that Ukrainian forces had managed to cross the river, which Russia considered a difficult barrier for Kiev’s soldiers to overcome.
But citing what he said was first-hand information from the Russian military group ‘Dnepr’, he said Russian forces had pinned down the Ukrainians and were raining “hellfire” on them and predicted they would be annihilated.
NBC News could not independently verify his claims.
“Our additional forces have arrived now. The enemy is trapped in (the settlement of) Krynki and an inferno of fire has been prepared for them: bombs, rockets, heavy flamethrowers, artillery shells and drones,” Saldo said.
“They (Ukrainians) are sitting in basements and running from one basement to another at night. In the last two or three days alone, the enemy’s total losses have amounted to about a hundred fighters.”
Ukrainian officials offered a different picture.
“Along the front line, which runs along the Dnieper… The retreat on our part occurs in a line of 3 to 8 kilometers (2-5 miles) along the entire bank from the water’s edge,” Natalia Humeniuk, spokeswoman for the southern military command, said.
“For now, we will ask for reporting silence… which will allow us to report later on big hits,” he said in televised comments.
A day earlier, Andriy Yermak said that Ukrainian forces had managed to cross the river and dig in “against all odds” and that his country’s counteroffensive aimed at recapturing territory from Russia, which has so far failed to make a breakthrough, was “developing.” ”. “
Russia has largely held off kyiv’s counteroffensive in the southeast, but a breakthrough into the occupied Kherson region could weaken its defenses and increase pressure.
Yermak made his comments during a trip to the United States, a key ally of kyiv that has provided vital military assistance since the February 2022 invasion, although questions are now being raised about the sustainability of that aid.
Although cautious not to compromise any of its operations, Kiev has been eager to tout its battlefield successes after the much-vaunted counteroffensive, now more than five months old, has recaptured a single series of villages and no large settlements. .
Russian troops took the Kherson region in the first days of their invasion, but withdrew a year ago from the city of Kherson and other positions on the western side of the river.
This week, in a highly unusual incident, two Russian state news agencies published alerts saying that Moscow was moving troops to “more favorable positions” east of the river, language it has used in the past to describe withdrawals.
The agencies quickly withdrew the news, which Russia’s Defense Ministry called false.