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Business News/ News / World/  Ukraine Probes Russian Defenses for Weak Points After Kicking Off Counteroffensive

Ukrainian forces were probing Russian defenses as Kyiv searched for weak points that could allow it to break through Russian lines and retake occupied territory as part of its long-anticipated counteroffensive.

After months on the defensive, Ukrainian forces have begun deploying Western armored vehicles and units trained by the West into combat for the first time, marking the start of a counteroffensive against occupying Russian forces.

Ukrainian forces have stepped up attacks along the front line in the east and south of the country in recent days, seeking to overrun entrenched Russian positions.

In an indicator of the challenges Kyiv faces in advancing, Oryx, an independent team of analysts tracking wartime equipment losses, put Ukraine’s recent losses at four Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles and two German-made Leopard tanks. A French armored personnel carrier and a U.S.-made Oshkosh combat vehicle were also abandoned on the battlefield. The losses couldn’t be independently verified.

In his first public comments on the war in several weeks, Russian President Vladimir Putin told journalists that Ukraine’s counteroffensive hasn’t been successful, but he also said that Kyiv’s troops shouldn’t be discounted.

“All counteroffensive attempts made so far have failed," Putin said. “But the offensive potential of the troops of the Kyiv regime is still preserved."

Ukrainian military spokesman Capt. Valeriy Shershen said Russia was regrouping and reinforcing positions in the southeastern Zaporizhzhia region, where Kyiv is undertaking one its main thrusts. “We are probing, looking for weak spots. When we find them we make a counterattack," said Shershen.

In the eastern Donetsk region, Ukrainian forces are making inroads around the city of Bakhmut, which Russia recently seized control of after 10 months of brutal urban combat. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky highlighted those gains in his nightly address.

“Donetsk region—very tough battles," he said. “But there is a result, and I am grateful to everyone who ensures this result! Bakhmut—well done. Step by step."

Zelensky has warned that the counteroffensive could take time to produce results and could come at a heavy cost.

Russia has prepared for Ukraine’s offensive by constructing what the U.K.’s Ministry of Defense described as some of the most extensive military defense systems seen in the world for decades, including trenches and minefields.

Ukraine is seeking to dislodge Russian forces from some of the nearly 20% of Ukrainian territory they currently occupy in an offensive that military strategists expect could go on for months. The stakes are high for Kyiv, which needs to show its Western backers it can turn billions of dollars in military and financial aid into gains on the battlefield.

The U.S. announced its latest security package for Ukraine on Friday, which includes additional munitions for Patriot batteries and other air-defense systems. The $2.1 billion package will come from a program known as the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, which procures equipment from the defense industry for the war effort over the long term as opposed to drawing directly from Defense Department stocks.

Overnight, Russia targeted military and critical infrastructure facilities across Ukraine using 16 attack drones and six cruise missiles, Ukraine’s air force said. Four of the missiles and 10 drones were shot down, it said. One person was killed in a strike on the Zhytomyr region, said Vitalii Bunechko, head of the Zhytomyr regional military administration.

Military analysts expect Ukrainian forces to probe in several areas along the front line, before committing more forces if they sense the chance of a breakthrough. The Ukrainians could also use feints to draw in Russian forces and tie them down while striking elsewhere.

On Thursday, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said his forces had inflicted heavy losses on Ukrainian troops in the Zaporizhzhia region and prevented them from breaking through.

Should Ukraine fail to achieve a breakthrough, pressure could intensify on Zelensky to negotiate an end to the war.

While kicking off its offensive, Ukraine is grappling with the fallout from the destruction of a dam that inundated a swath of territory in the south of the country, including the regional capital of Kherson. Oleksandr Prokudin, the head of the Kherson regional military administration, said on Friday water levels had peaked, with the water dropping by 20 centimeters overnight. More than 3,600 homes have been flooded so far, he added.

Some civil engineers and explosives experts believe that a deliberate attack rather than a structural fault caused the destruction of the Kakhovka dam. Ukraine blames Russia for blowing up the dam, which has compounded a humanitarian crisis from the war and will have a lasting impact on the local environment.

Ukraine’s domestic security service on Friday released a purported intercept of a phone conversation between members of the Russian military in which one of the speakers says a Russian sabotage group was responsible for destroying the dam.

Russia’s Defense Ministry didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the alleged radio intercept. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov repeated on Friday the Kremlin’s allegation that Ukrainian saboteurs blew up the dam.

Rescue efforts in Kherson have been complicated by Russian attacks on the region, which killed two people on Thursday, Prokudin said. On Thursday, Russian forces shelled an evacuation point that Zelensky had visited hours earlier. Zelensky, in his nightly address, criticized the response of international organizations to the disaster.

Vladimir Saldo, the Russia-appointed head of Ukraine’s Kherson region, wrote Friday on his Telegram messenger channel that more than 5,800 people had been evacuated from the flooded territories that Moscow controls and the number of deaths had risen to eight people.

Meanwhile, authorities in Russia’s Voronezh region, around 115 miles from the Ukrainian border, reported that a drone had crashed on a residential building, injuring at least three people and prompting Alexander Gusev, the region’s governor, to declare a state of emergency in the district where the incident occurred.

Peskov told reporters that the incident was further justification for Russia to continue its military campaign in Ukraine. It follows several other drone attacks on Russian territory in recent months, including in the Russian border city of Belgorod which on Friday reported “massive Ukrainian strikes" in the past 24 hours that included casualties.

The Kremlin has blamed the attacks on Kyiv. The Ukrainian government hasn’t commented on whether it is responsible for such incidents.

Write to Isabel Coles at and Ann M. Simmons at

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