Smoke billowed from the heat haze over the city of Kherson as Ukrainian soldiers drove tracked vehicles across unharvested fields as a long-awaited counteroffensive got underway.
The Carniola government reported fierce fighting on its southern front but declined to provide details, leaving observers to rely on snippets of social media footage to get a picture of Kiev’s most ambitious operation since the war began .
“Does anyone want to know what our plans are? You won’t hear details from anyone really responsible. Because this is war,” said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in a late night address.
A video that has emerged shows heavily armed men wearing Ukrainian yellow tactical identification bracelets riding armored vehicles. Another showed a similar column driving through wheat fields.
There were also daylight shots of missile attacks on the pontoon ferry that the Russians had built next to the damaged Antonovsky Road bridge across the Dnipro River. Another showed smoke rising and the sound of a gun battle in a suburb.
Kirill Stremousov, the deputy head of the Russian-installed Kherson regional government, later claimed that Ukrainian spies and “saboteurs” were killed and the city remained safe.
Ukraine’s Southern Command claimed Russia lost 82 soldiers and 30 pieces of equipment, including two tanks, three MLRS and an S-300 missile system, on the first day of the attack.
The Russian Defense Ministry claimed the Ukrainian attack failed with casualties of up to 1,200 men. Both claims could not be confirmed.
However, reports from Ukrainian and Russian sources both suggest that Ukraine has attacked at multiple points and intensified precision missile attacks, including the first use of Himars missiles against front-line positions.
Rybar, a widely-read pro-Russian military Telegram channel, said Ukraine attacked along four main axes: toward Kherson itself, along the Mykolaiv coast and highway; on the west side of the Inhulets River near a place called Blagodatnoe; on the east bank of the inhulet; and at the extreme northern edge of the pocket around the village of Vysokopilia.
The account could not be immediately confirmed, but correlated broadly with other reports and data from Firms, NASA’s fire monitoring service.
Ukrainian sources told CNN that four coastal villages west of Kherson – Novodmytrivka, Arkhanhel’s’ke, Tomyna Balka and Pravdyne – had been liberated.
We have not seen anything like this from the Ukrainian side in this war
Oleksiy Arestovich, an adviser to the president, said Russian defenses had been breached but the operation was “not quick or easy” and was designed to “crush the enemy.”
Rybar acknowledged some Ukrainian gains but claimed they were repulsed in several places and suffered heavy losses of tanks and infantry.
The British Ministry of Defense said in an intelligence report that Ukraine had “increased the weight of artillery fire in front-line sectors across southern Ukraine” but that it was not yet possible to assess the extent of Ukraine’s advance.
The reports are consistent enough to conclude that the offensive is “a big boost.”
“We haven’t seen anything like this from the Ukrainian side in this war,” said Kirill Mikhailov of the Conflict Intelligence Team, an independent research group focused on the Russian military.
“In this war you rarely see anyone take more than one village in a day, and here you are talking about multiple villages in multiple directions in a single day. So the pace of the first day is impressive. We’ve yet to see if it’s sustainable,” he said.
Ukrainian forces had breached the first layer of Russian defenses in Kherson, but still had a second and third to reach the city’s perimeter, an intelligence source said.
The second shift, they said, is tougher than the first as it consists of mechanized and more mobile units.
Ukraine has been attacking the three bridges over the Dnieper for weeks to isolate the Kherson garrison. (© Telegraph Media Group Ltd. 2022)
Telegraph Media Group Limited 
https://www.independent.ie/world-news/europe/ukrainian-forces-launch-counter-offensive-against-russia-positions-as-kyivs-big-push-to-take-kherson-back-begins-41949193.html Ukrainian forces launch counter-offensive against Russian positions as Kiev begins major push to retake Kherson