U.S. officials have told CBS News it appears the Ukrainian military has made progress in advancing on the Russian-held city of Tokmak– a vital barrier city that stands between the Ukrainian forces and the southeastern city of Melitopol.
One of the goals of Ukraine’s counteroffensive is to advance south through heavy Russian fortifications in a bid to reclaim occupied Melitopol – the gateway to Crimea, illegally annexed by Moscow in 2014 and a vital Russian transit hub.
A U.S. official told CBS News on Thursday that Ukrainian forces have made it through a Russian minefield north of Tokmak and are now engaging with the first line of Russian defenses holding the city.
Recapturing cities like Tokmak, and a further advance on to Melitipol, will be a daunting task for a Ukrainian counteroffensive that has made incremental gains since it launched earlier this summer.
Kyiv got more welcome news Friday as the United States has given the green light for the Netherlands to deliver F-16s to Ukraine, a major gain for the country that has long sought the U.S.-made fighter jets to counteract Russian superiority in the air.
Dutch Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra confirmed the approval from Washington in a post on social media.
“We welcome Washington’s decision to pave the way for sending F16 Fighter Jets to Ukraine. … Now we will discuss the subject with our European partners,” the post read. “This marks a major milestone for Ukraine to defend its people and its country.”
This comes as the Pentagon told CBS News on Thursday that the Biden administration is willing to host training on F-16 fighter jets in the United States for Ukrainian pilots if additional capacity is needed.
Meanwhile, Russian officials claimed on Friday that air defenses stopped drone attacks on central Moscow and on the country’s ships in the Black Sea. The Kremlin said the incident was “another terrorist attack by the Kyiv regime” and no injuries were reported.
Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin claimed some of the fragments fell on the grounds of the Expocentre, a building located in close proximity to the Moscow City commercial and office complex that has been struck twice by drones in the past month.
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