Defence Minister Peeni Henare visits Kyiv to meet Ukrainian Minister of Defence Oleksii Reznikov and pay tribute to the those lost in the conflict.
Ukraine’s military has launched a “silent” assault on the strategic Kinburn Spit as its Kherson counteroffensive enters a new phase.
Captain Natalia Humeniuk, a spokeswoman for the southern command of Ukraine’s Armed Forces, said the operation to liberate the small, sandy peninsula was under way amid reports it had already been recaptured by Ukrainian forces.
“The most important thing is that the operation continues, and we continue our fight against the enemy.”
The Kinburn Spit is a small strip of land formed where the Dnipro River meets the Black Sea.
The outcrop is strategically important because it gives whoever holds it control over the entrance to the Dnipro river, which bisects Ukraine, as well as the ports of Kherson and Mykolaiv.
Vitalii Kim, Mkyolaiv’s governor, said three settlements on the peninsula needed to be liberated before his region is entirely freed from Russia.
Before the war, the spit was popular with tourists but has since been used by Russian forces to conduct routine artillery and missile strikes on Ukrainian-held territories.
It was used by Moscow to target tug boats and grain barges operating in the mouth of the Dnipro River, according to Ukraine’s military.
Ukraine’s southern operational command has previously described the area as the “focus of the enemy’s life force, weapons and equipment”.
Images have been shared on social media appearing to show Ukrainian troops operating in the Dnipro, suggesting they are launching amphibious assaults on the area.
In a recent broadcast on Ukrainian television, Humeniuk said Russia’s hold on the region is “not powerful enough to withstand a large concentration of troops”.
On Tuesday she claimed the storming conditions around the peninsula had prevented Russian forces from gaining a foothold on the Kinburn Spit.
“The sea helps us. The enemy cannot gain a foothold there because the Ukrainian Armed Forces inflict damage on the enemy’s points,” she added.
Western military analysts claim recapturing the peninsula would give Ukraine’s forces a staging post for future operations on the left bank of the Dnipro, where Russia withdrew its forces after ceding control of the southern city of Kherson.
The Institute for the Study of War, a US-based think-tank, said: “Control of the Kinburn Spit would allow Ukrainian forces to relieve Russian strikes on the Ukrainian-controlled Black Sea coast, increase naval activity in the area, and conduct potential operations to cross to the left (east) bank in Kherson Oblast under significantly less Russian artillery fire compared to a crossing of the Dnipro River.”
Meanwhile, Russia started a mobilisation drive in occupied Crimea amid mounting fears Ukraine could advance on the region it illegally annexed in 2014.
Ukraine’s military reported that men in Crimea have received mobilisation papers despite Russian president Vladimir Putin ordering an end to mobilisation in the rest of the country.
“In Crimea, a covert mobilisation to bolster the ranks of occupying forces is ongoing,” it said.
Analysts have said that the Kremlin’s call-up drive has largely been supplied by Russia’s far-flung provinces.
Sergey Melikov, the governor of Dagestan, on Tuesday weighed into the debate with a rare public criticism of the mobilisation, saying on a Telegram video that it was shameful that top Kremlin officials had not sent their sons to fight in Ukraine in a war that they had said was vital to win for Russia’s survival.
Kremlin-installed authorities in Crimea said the peninsula came under attack by drones on Tuesday.
Mikhail Razvozhayev, the governor of the Sevastopol administrative region, said two drones were shot down and urged residents to “remain calm”.
Crimea’s Moscow-appointed governor said last week that Russia’s defences were being strengthened there as Kyiv’s forces continued to reclaim territory in neighbouring Kherson.