Ukraine has broken through Russia’s lines in the Zaporizhzhia region and expects to make further breakthroughs, the general leading Kyiv’s offensive in the south has said.
“On the left flank [near the village of Verbove] we have a breakthrough and we continue to advance further,” General Oleksandr Tarnavskiy told CNN.
He acknowledged the advance had so far been slower than Ukraine hoped.
“Not as fast as it was expected, not like in the movies about the Second World War,” he said. “The main thing is not to lose this initiative.”
The major breakthrough is expected to come if Kyiv’s forces manage to retake Tokmak, 12 miles beyond the current frontline, the general said. The liberation of the city would allow Ukrainian forces to push further towards occupied Melitopol and annexed Crimea.
“I believe yes [there will be a big breakthrough],” Gen Tarnavsky said. “I think it will happen after Tokmak. At the moment [the Russians] are relying on the depth of their defensive line there.”
His comments about advances in the south are the latest in a series of claims from Kyiv in recent weeks that they are progressing in the Zaporizhzhia region and have penetrated Russia’s strongest defences.
The “crossroads, tree lines and minefields between the tree lines,” represent the biggest challenges, he said in the interview.
There is “a combination of small, harmful enemy defence groups that currently are planted very precisely and competently,” he said. “But the actions of our fighters force them to slowly pull back when they face our assault squads.”
For Gen Tarnavsky, reaching Tokmak is the minimum to claim success in the counter-offensive.
“Tokmak is the minimum goal,” he said. “The overall objective is to get to our state borders.”
While many fear that the onset of winter could further slow the offensive, Gen Tarnavsky said he believes the weather is unlikely to hold them back now.
“The weather can be a serious obstacle during advance, but considering how we move forward, mostly without vehicles, I don’t think [the weather] will heavily influence the counter-offensive,” he said.
Russian officials have given a very different picture of the battle in Zaporizhzhia.
The interview was published a day after Kyiv struck Russia’s Black Sea Fleet headquarters in the Crimean port of Sevastopol, claiming to have killed “senior” commanders.
Gen Tarnavsky said the counter-offensive’s success depends not only on what happens on the front, but also on “destroying command centres” that create “a mess on the battlefield”.
05:00 PM BST
Today's live blog is now closed
That’s all for today, thanks for following along. We will be back again tomorrow with all of the latest updates from the conflict.
03:50 PM BST
Casualty toll from Kremenchuk attack rises
The casualty toll from Russia’s attack on Kremenchuk yesterday has risen to one dead and 32 injured, the head of the Kremenchuk District Military Administration, told Suspline media.
There are children among the injured and three people remain in critical condition, he said.
03:48 PM BST
Three civilians injured in Kherson
Two civilians have been injured during Russian shelling in Kherson, the regional administration has said.
A 65-year-old woman and a 27-year-old man were injured.
They did not specify when the attack happened. An air alert went off at 3pm local time according to the Telegram account.
An earlier post said that a 78-year-old man was seriously injured in a drone attack in Mykolaivka.
02:37 PM BST
Russian general 'seriously wounded' in Storm Shadow strike
Ukraine has claimed that a Russian general who was leading troops on the southern front was “seriously wounded” in the Storm Shadow strike on Russia’s Black Sea Navy fleet yesterday.
Kyrylo Budanov, the head of the Main Intelligence Directorate of Ukraine, told Voice of America that the commander of the group, Col Gen Alexander Romanchuk, was among the wounded and is in very serious condition. Romanchuk is reported to be in charge of Russian forces in Zaporizhzhia, where the main thrust of the counter-offensive is happening.
Budanov said that nine people were killed and 16 injured, among them the two generals, in the landmark strike. The number of “causal servicemen on duty” who were killed or injured has not yet been determined, he added.
The Ukrainian army said that the strike targeted “a meeting of the Russian navy’s leadership” and that “senior Russian navy commanders” were among the casualties.
02:22 PM BST
Zelensky meets Burhan
Zelensky has had an impromptu meeting with the head of the Sudanese Sovereign Council, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, during which they discussed Russian armed groups.
“We discussed our common security challenges, namely the activities of illegal armed groups financed by Russia,” Zelensky wrote on Telegram.
The unplanned meeting took place in Ireland’s Shannon airport.
Wagner have denied reports that they are operating in Sudan, which has been embroiled in a deadly civil war since April.
01:19 PM BST
Sanctions on Russia 'unnecessary', Hungary's FM says
Hungary’s Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said new sanctions against Russia are “unnecessary” because they “cause more harm to Europe than Russia,” in an interview with Russian state media TASS.
“If we look at the sanctions from a pragmatic point of view, we see that they cause more harm to Europe than to Russia,” he said, according to TASS.
“If Ukrainian grain starts to spread into Central European countries, it will definitely destroy the agricultural markets of Central Europe. Not to mention our farmers, whom we obviously need to protect,” Szijjártó continued, as quoted by TASS.
12:46 PM BST
'We keep giving them hell' on the Bakhmut front
The use of heavy weapons supplied by the West in the fierce battle raging on the outskirts of Bakhmut, which was captured by Russia in May, is inflicting a significant toll on enemy lines, Ukrainian commanders have said, speaking to Reuters.
One unit commander, 30-year-old Oleksandr, said Ukraine’s armed forces “very much rely” on heavy artillery.
“Even one gun can completely turn the situation around. An attack can be stopped with one such gun,” he said.
“The main thing is to aim where needed. They (the Russians) hate our hardware. That’s what we gather from our intercepts. We hear that we keep giving them hell and they keep wondering how much ammunition we have left.”
12:12 PM BST
FT also reports US decision to send ATACMS to Kyiv
The Financial Times has also been told by “people familiar with the matter” that Joe Biden has decided to send the long-range ATACMS missiles to Kyiv after months of deliberation.
Washington will send a version of the missiles armed with cluster munitions rather than a single warhead, the people are reported to have said
The US will send them in the near future, in small numbers at first, the report added.
11:56 AM BST
Ex-Wagner commander arrested in Norway for attempting return to Russia
Norwegian police have arrested a former commander of the Wagner mercenary group on suspicion that he tried to illegally cross the border back into Russia after seeking asylum in Norway earlier this year.
Andrei Medvedev escaped Russia in January via its Arctic border with Norway.
“He was up there to see if he could find the place where he crossed (into Norway in January). He was stopped when he was in a taxi. He was never near the border ... It was never his intention to cross the border (into Russia),” his lawyer Brynjulf Risnes told Reuters.
On his arrival in Norway, Medvedev said he was seeking asylum because he feared for his life after witnessing the killing and mistreatment of Russian prisoners brought to the frontline in Ukraine.
In May he posted a video on YouTube saying that he wanted to return to Russia even though he believed this could pose a risk to his life. He described himself as “some kind of a boy in a big game” that he no longer wanted to be part of.
11:29 AM BST
Pictured: Reunions and goodbyes at the station closest to the frontline in Kramatorsk
11:22 AM BST
One dead, three injured in Russian attacks overnight
One person was killed and three injured in Russian bombardments of Dnipropetrovsk and Kherson overnight, regional military administrations said.
Serhii Lysak said that Dnipropetrovsk sustained attacks from UAV and heavy artillery. A “critical infrastructure facility” was damaged in Dnipro when it was attacked with Shahed drones, he added.
In Kherson, Oleksandr Prokudin said that one person was killed and three injured when the southern border region of Kherson was struck by 598 shells over the past 24 hours.
Mortars, artillery, grad multiple launch rocket system, missiles, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and aircrafts were used in the attack, according to Prokudin. Residential areas were targetted, he said, as well as a prison and medical and educational facilities.
11:07 AM BST
Ukrainian forces have broken through in Verbove, general says
Ukrainian troops have broken through in Verbove, the general leading the counter-offensive on the southern front told CNN.
“On the left flank [near Verbove] we have a breakthrough and we continue to advance further,” Oleksandr Tarnavsky said, though he said his troops were moving slower than anticipated.
“I believe yes [there will be a big breakthrough],” Tarnavsky said. “I think it will happen after Tokmak. At the moment (the Russians) are relying on the depth of their defensive line there.”
10:59 AM BST
Ukrainian forces advance southwest of Bakhmut, ISW says
Ukrainian forces continued assaults near #Bakhmut on September 22 and advanced. Geolocated footage published on September 22 indicates that Ukrainian forces advanced southeast of #Klishchiivka (7km southwest of Bakhmut). https://t.co/qhNeckHtbV https://t.co/nvqeXTaJUh pic.twitter.com/G6vibfteF6
— ISW (@TheStudyofWar) September 23, 2023
10:54 AM BST
'Extreme attrition and high turnover' in senior ranks of Russian military: MoD
Three successive commanders of one of Russia’s most prestigious airborne regiments have either been killed or resigned, the British defence ministry said in its daily intelligence briefing this morning.
Colonel Vasily Popov of the 247th Guards Air Assault Landing Regiment “was likely killed in the heavily contested Orikhiv sector in early September 2023,” the briefing said.
“Only weeks before, in August 2023, his predecessor, Colonel Pytor Popov, likely resigned his command. Independent Russian media sources claim he acted in protest over the military’s failure to recover the bodies of Russian casualties,” it continued.
“In the early weeks of the invasion, then 247th commander Colonel Konstantin Zizevsky was killed near Mykolaiv.”
“The experience of the 247th highlights the extreme attrition and high turnover in Russia’s deployed military, even amongst relatively senior ranks,” it concluded.
10:48 AM BST
The Telegraph's guide to Storm Shadow missiles
10:40 AM BST
Russian hackers are targeting war crimes investigations, Kyiv says
Ukraine’s cyber defence chief has said that Russian spies are using hackers to target computer systems at law enforcement agencies in Ukraine in a bid to identify and obtain evidence related to alleged Russian war crimes.
“There’s been a change in direction, from a focus on energy facilities towards law enforcement institutions which had previously not been targeted that often,” Yurii Shchyhol, head of the State Service of Special Communications and Information Protection of Ukraine (SSSCIP) told Reuters.
“This shift, towards the courts, prosecutors and law enforcement units, shows that hackers are gathering evidence about Russian war crimes in Ukraine” with a view to following Ukraine’s investigations, he added.
Hackers are also trying to gather intelligence on Russian nationals arrested in Ukraine, with a view to “help these individuals avoid prosecution and move them back to Russia,” a report from the SSSCIP due to be released on Monday will say.
“The groups we’ve identified as being engaged in this activity are part of Russia’s GRU and FSB intelligence agencies,” Shchyhol said.
Russia did not respond to Reuters request for comment.
10:29 AM BST
Satellite imagery of yesterday's strike on the Black Sea navy fleet HQ
10:22 AM BST
'Never insult Poles again,' Polish PM tells Zelensky
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has warned Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to never “insult” his people again, which he says he did during his speech at the UN.
Kyiv and Warsaw have been in a row over grain imports since last week, shaking the relationship with one of Ukraine’s staunchest allies. At the UN General Assembly earlier this week Zelensky said that the “political theatre” around grain imports was only helping Moscow.
At a rally yesterday the Polish PM hit back at the veiled criticism.
“I want to tell President Zelensky never to insult Poles again, as he did recently during his speech at the UN,” he said.
“The Polish people will never allow this to happen, and defending the good name of Poland is not only my duty and honor, but also the most important task of the Polish government,” the Polish prime minister added.
Morawiecki’s comments came after the Polish President had tried to defuse the simmering row, saying that it would not significantly impact relations.
10:06 AM BST
US will send Ukraine ATACMS long-range missiles, report says
US President Joe Biden has informed Kyiv that Washington will send ATACMS long-range missiles, NBC news reported last night citing US officials.
Kyiv has long been asking Washington for the Army Tactical Missile Systems to help attack and disrupt supply lines, air bases and rail networks in Russian occupied territory.
Neither country have directly commented on the report.
09:56 AM BST
Trudeau: 'Canada will always support Ukraine'
09:53 AM BST
Zelensky urges Canada to stick with him as Ottawa bolsters aid
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urged Canada to stick with his country as he addressed the Canadian parliament overnight.
“Moscow must lose once and for all. And it will lose,” Zelensky said. “You’re always on the bright side of history … I have no doubt that you will choose the side of freedom and justice.”
The pair signed an updated Free Trade Agreement, according to Zelensky, which will be “the basis for the reconstruction of Ukraine”.
Canada’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau, promised an extra 650 million Canadian dollars (£393.7m) over the next three years which will include money for 50 armoured vehicles. Trudeau also promised to send F-16 trainers for pilots and maintenance.
Zelensky also thanked Trudeau for Canada’s decision to purchase “a new batch of missiles for air defense systems for the needs of Ukraine.”
09:41 AM BST
Fresh explosions reported in Sevastopol this morning
Reports of further attacks on Sevastopol have been circulating this morning, though the results or exact location are not immediately clear.
The Russian-installed head of Sevastopol in annexed Crimea, Mikhail Razvozhayev, warned of missile danger earlier this morning on Telegram.
“Attention! Missile danger!,” he posted. “Close your windows properly and stay away from them,” he added, asking commuters to get out of cars and public transport and seek shelter in a safe place.
Shortly after he said that the danger was gone. He posted earlier this morning that “fragments” of a missile had fallen outside the city.
More explosions reported in Sevastopol this morning. pic.twitter.com/Afqa96scvZ
— Anton Gerashchenko (@Gerashchenko_en) September 23, 2023
09:35 AM BST
Hello and welcome to The Telegraph’s daily live blog of the war in Ukraine, with me, Abbie Cheeseman. First up this morning:
Ukraine claims ‘senior officers’ killed in Storm Shadow strike on naval HQ
Ukraine has said that nine people were killed and 16 injured, among them two generals, in the Storm Shadow strike on Russia’s Black Sea Navy fleet yesterday.
The Ukrainian army said that the strike targeted “a meeting of the Russian navy’s leadership” and that “senior Russian navy commanders” were among the casualties. Russia yesterday claimed that just one servicemember was missing in action.
Kyrylo Budanov, the head of the Main Intelligence Directorate of Ukraine, told Voice of America that the commander of the group, Col Gen Alexander Romanchuk, was among the wounded and is in very serious condition. He did not confirm rumours that have been circulating overnight of the alleged death of the commander of Russia’s Black Sea fleet, Adm Viktor Sokolov.
“The number of casual military servicemen who are not employees of the headquarters is still being determined. These are military personnel who are on duty, security, and so on — they are not included in the list that I announced to you,” Budanov was quoted as saying.
Another missile strike was reported in Sevastopol this morning, with images online showing plumes of smoke, though the results are not yet clear.