Live updates: Russia’s war in Ukraine

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A senior Ukrainian official says that Russian forces’ “task number one” is to hold the southern front line.

The Russians are digging in and sending more resources in hopes of holding off the Ukrainian forces pushing toward Kherson, said Oleksii Hromov, a top official with the military’s General Staff.

“The enemy plans to fulfill this task with the help of the first wave of the partial mobilization and by increasing the number of their troops on the west bank of the Dnipro River,” he said, referring to a key waterway where fighting has recently taken place on both banks.

Hromov suggested there were now more than 40 Russian battalion tactical groups in the Kherson region. Each group usually comprises some 1,000 personnel.

Why this region is key:

“For Putin’s regime, the south direction — Kherson, Zaporizhzhia and Mykolaiv — has strategic meaning from the point of view of preserving the land corridor to Crimea and water supply to the peninsula, as well as creating a future bridgehead for the capture of Mykolaiv and Odesa regions, depriving Ukraine of the status of a maritime state,” Hromov said. 

In his own statement, the Russia-backed head of Crimea stressed the region’s importance to Moscow and its appointed leaders in occupied Ukraine.

“Our common position is that the protection of Kherson region will ensure the security of the Republic of Crimea. To that end, we will continue to take all necessary measures, including providing maximum assistance to the troops and law enforcement units on the front lines,” Sergey Aksenov said Thursday.

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