By Marc Santora
As the Ukrainian military stages counterattacks against Russian forces in southern Ukraine, authorities Monday urged people living in occupied towns and cities to flee if possible.
Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk issued a statement vowing that the Ukrainian army would win back all lost lands but warned there would probably be fierce and prolonged fighting on the road to liberation.
“My advice: Move to Ukrainian-controlled territory,” she said. “I know that it’s difficult, but you have to try and find ways and opportunities. Because ultimately, it is a question of your safety and that of your children.”
Ukrainian soldiers, seeking to spread Russian forces thin, launched a counteroffensive Sunday in the region of Kherson, home to the southern city that was first to fall under Russian control in the early days of the war.
Vadym Denysenko, an adviser to the minister of internal affairs, said late Sunday on a national telethon that Russian forces had been driven back more than 6 miles in recent days in some areas of the Kherson and Zaporizka regions.
But the Russians have had weeks to fortify their positions in the south, even with the bulk of their forces concentrated along a 75-mile front in eastern Ukraine.
It is unlikely that Ukrainians will make swift advances in reclaiming lost ground, according to analysts at the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank.
“It will likely disrupt Russian operations and potentially force Russia to deploy reinforcements to the Kherson region, which is predominantly held by substandard units,” the analysts wrote in their latest assessment. “Ukrainian counterattacks may additionally slow Russian efforts to consolidate administrative control of occupied southern Ukraine.”