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Ukrainian officials informed Washington about the start of a new phase of the counteroffensive and its main focus, the New York Times reported on July 26.
Two Pentagon officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told the Times that the "main thrust" of Ukraine's ongoing counteroffensive is currently in the southeast, and that Ukraine will now deploy thousands of Western-trained reinforcements previously held in reserve.
Kremlin appointees in occupied territories supported this account, reporting constant assaults along the southern front and intense battles with Western-trained Ukrainian troops equipped with Leopard tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles.
Yevgeny Balitsky, a Russian-installed proxy in Zaporizhzhia, claimed that Ukrainian soldiers increased shelling in the occupied portion of the oblast.
Ukrainian officials have informed their U.S. counterparts that the increased force is planning a southern advance, aiming to navigate through Russia's minefields and fortifications en route to the city of Tokmak. If successful, their next objective would be Melitopol, located near the coast, sources told the Times.
"This is the big test," said one top U.S. official.
The objective is to cut off the land bridge between Russian-occupied Ukraine and occupied Crimea, or at least make enough progress to bring the strategically significant peninsula within Ukraine's firing range.
The estimated timeline, as conveyed by Ukrainian officials to officials in Washington, suggests the new operation might last one to three weeks.