Families caught in the crosshairs of southern Ukraine

Caring for geese, chickens and the only cow in the possession of the small family was a way of life, and she could not stand the abandonment of animals.

“How can I leave my house behind?” 65-year-old Bokosaeva said. “My daughter in Poland was telling me: Mom, you have to run from there.”

But she stayed with her husband on their 16-hectare farm, which they rented from a local owner near the edge of Ukraine-controlled territory.

“My heart was jumping, especially when the planes were flying overhead,” Bokosaeva said. “All day and night – the explosion roared. I can’t stand it anymore. People are suffering.”

But despite the increased danger, Pokusaeva is very supportive of the Ukrainian army and its mission to reclaim territory from the Russians.

A Ukrainian military source told CNN that the offensive is still in its early days, but Ukrainian forces have already made some early gains, recapturing four villages from the Russians on Monday.

Driving near Bokosaeva’s home and toward the front line through small villages, the area seemed largely deserted by residents and troops. It became clear how quickly the Ukrainians were advancing, with some checkpoints left unmanned and marks on recent shell casings and military rations littered by the roadside.

To the south lies the main target of the Ukrainian forces: the city of Kherson, the only regional capital that has fallen to Russia since the start of the war.

Oleksiy Aristovich, adviser to the chief of staff of President Volodymyr Zelensky’s office, said on Monday that Ukrainian forces had broken through Russian defenses in “several” areas of the front line near the city of Kherson. For its part, Russia said it was able to repel the Ukrainian advance, claiming that Ukraine “incurred heavy losses” and “failed miserably” in its “attempt” to attack.

Videos posted on Telegram and Twitter showed fighting in and around the city over the past few days, and the Antonevsky Bridge was damaged, cutting off a major supply line for the Russians.

“Currently [the Russians] “They do not have the transport capacity to withdraw reserves from the left bank (of the river),” Natalia Homenyuk, head of the press center for the unified coordination of security and defense forces in southern Ukraine, said on Tuesday.

“They may continue to try to set up a crossing or a floating crossing, but the area where they can spread is also under our fire control and they will be bombed,” she added.

On Monday, she warned Kherson residents who could not flee to find a place to shelter until the fighting was over.

Even before the counterattack began, residents had been fleeing Kherson and the surrounding area for months. Many of them are attracted to the city of Kryvyi Rih, about 50 kilometers (31 miles) north of the front line in the Kherson region.

“Our house was hit,” said Galina Smirnova, 61. This is why we fled.”

Ukraine claims early success in a counterattack as Zelensky pledged '  chase & # 39;  Russians to the border

She and her husband, Prokopenko, now share a room with more than a dozen other people at the Kryvyi Rih Primary School-turned-shelter for 86 IDPs.

“I just want to go back to my village,” said 83-year-old Lipchak Lubok, who arrived at the shelter with her brother-in-law. They fled three weeks ago when the Russians occupied their village.

“There was a lot of bombing,” Lubbock said. “I couldn’t take to the streets, it was too dangerous.”

For the Ukrainian forces fighting to retake these villages, any progress in this potentially long battle might be slim, but their morale was boosted by early signs of success.

“The Ukrainian army is fighting heroically,” said Alexander Velkul, head of the military administration in Kryvyi Rih. “Victory will be ours because the army is not only fighting, but the whole nation is fighting.”

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