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Russia says Ukraine has launched a large-scale offensive on Donetsk


Highlights: Kiev imposes a news silence as Moscow and Russian military sources confirm multiple attacks on the eastern front. Russia says the moment everyone was waiting for has arrived. According to the Russian Defense Ministry, Ukraine began on Sunday the long-awaited counteroffensive that has to change the course of the war. Kiev has launched a campaign of informational silence in the country: the order is that no details about the actions of its army should be communicated. The situation in Donetsk and Zaporizhia is more a priority for the Kremlin than Belgorod.

Kiev imposes a news silence as Moscow and Russian military sources confirm multiple attacks on the eastern front

Russia says the moment everyone was waiting for has arrived. According to the Russian Defense Ministry, Ukraine began on Sunday the long-awaited counteroffensive that has to change the course of the war to liberate the territories occupied by Russia. Kiev has launched a campaign of informational silence in the country: the order is that no details about the actions of its army should be communicated. But multiple Russian military sources, and also foreign observers of reference, confirm that the Ukrainian Armed Forces have gone on the attack in the east, in the provinces of Donetsk and Zaporizhia. "The enemy has launched since the morning of June 4 a large-scale offensive in five sectors of the southern front of Donetsk, in which it has incorporated the 23rd and 31st Mechanized Brigades of the reserve," the Russian Defense Ministry announced. The agency led by Sergei Shoigu has published a video where dozens of armored vehicles cross the battlefield can be seen from an aerial view. "A total of six mechanized battalions and two other enemy tank battalions have been involved," Moscow said in its statement. "The enemy's goal was to break through our defenses in the sector that was, in his opinion, most vulnerable," he adds before claiming that the attack was repelled. "He didn't succeed."

Moscow's official version contrasts with the messages of Russian observers at the front. Semion Pegov, a leading Russian military journalist, and commander Alexander Kohdakovsky have reported Ukrainian advances on the southern front of Donetsk, bordering the province of Zaporizhia. Pegov said Ukrainian units had reached the village of Novodonetske, right on the edge of Russian-occupied territories. Kohdakovsky has detailed on his social networks that the Ukrainian army simulated a failed attack from neighboring Velika Novosilka on Sunday, but they were amassing forces to launch themselves on Novodonetske.

Kohdakovski added that in this part of the front, Russian defensive positions have identified for the first time in combat the Leopard tanks, the German armored vehicles supplied by the Ukrainian allies in NATO. "The situation is difficult, only in Novodonetske we have detected 30 enemy armored vehicles," Kohdakovsky said.

Still from a video released by the Russian Ministry of Defense allegedly showing Ukrainian military vehicles at the front repelled by Russian forces. AP

The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) has assured in its daily analysis of the invasion that the Ukrainian Armed Forces would also have advanced on the Zaporizhia front, on the other side of the dividing line with Donetsk. Progress is limited, the ISW estimates from information from Russian Telegram channels, of no more than three kilometers. The Russian military analysis group Rybar has also highlighted that Kiev's troops have gone on the offensive in Mala Tokmachka, further southwest on the Zaporizhia front. These attacks would indicate that the Ukrainian army could try to break the Zaporizhian front, on the northern and southern flank. This line of war is considered the most decisive for Ukraine because it would allow to advance towards the coast of the Sea of Azov, having more to range with its artillery the main supply routes of the Russian troops towards the southern front and towards Crimea.

Ukrainian troops have also reportedly stepped up efforts on Bakhmut. In this city of Donetsk, razed and in the hands of the Russian army since last May, the Russian military journalist Sasha Kots has confirmed this morning that the Ukrainian infantry was launching assaults in the southwestern neighborhoods of Bakhmut, and that the artillery was hitting hard Soledar, a town adjacent to Bakhmut also occupied by Russia. Ukrainian Army Commander Oleksandr Sirskii posted a message on Monday saying his soldiers were advancing on Bakhmut. Euromaidan, half Ukrainian, has taken it for granted that its troops have retaken positions inside the city, in the southern suburbs. Yevegeny Prigozhin, leader of the Wagner mercenary company, said Ukrainian troops were about to take control of Berkhivka, a hamlet north of Bakhmut that has been under Russian control for months.

Attacks on Russian soil

Pressure is mounting on the Kremlin. At the same time that virtually all its forces are entrenched inside Ukraine to face a large-scale Ukrainian offensive, their own territories remain unprotected from rival incursions and bombings. That the situation in Donetsk and Zaporizhia is more of a priority for the Kremlin than Belgorod is demonstrated by the fact that the Ministry of Defense reported today that Valery Gerasimov, head of the Russian Main Stage, was following military operations near these provinces of Ukrainian territory. According to the government of Russia's Belgorod border region, the Ukrainian Armed Forces fired more than 70 rockets from their Grad multiple-launch systems on the village of Novaya Tavolzhanka in the battered Shebekino district tonight.

Kiev's goal is that the pressure of the Russian population on the border will force the Kremlin to move its forces from the front, and thus weaken the front. According to the Belgorod authorities, 67 apartment buildings and 370 single-family houses in the Shebekino district have been damaged in the past week, subjected to intense bombardment unparalleled by one-off attacks during the rest of the war.

Belgorod, whose capital is separated from Ukraine's Kharkiv by just 60 kilometers by road, has been the target of incursions by Kiev-backed saboteur groups. The last one took place this Sunday. Units of the ultranationalist Freedom Legion of Russia, made up of anti-Kremlin volunteers, stormed Novaya Tavolzhanka and captured at least four Russian soldiers.

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It is unknown whether these prisoners were professional soldiers, conscripts in military service or volunteers of the amateur militias that the region has formed to protect itself. The governor of the region, Vyacheslav Gladkov, chaired an emergency council and offered to attend a meeting to exchange prisoners. "Our guys are in their hands. Most likely, they were killed, no matter how difficult it is for me to say, but if they are alive, 17 to 18 hours at the Shebekino checkpoint. I guarantee their safety," Gladkov said publicly on Sunday.

The meeting did not take place. After the deadline given by Gladkov, the Freedom Legion of Russia published a video with four alleged Russian prisoners in which it denounced that the regional governor did not show up for his own appointment. "All the power of United Russia – Putin's party – represented by Governor Gladkov, sits and scared in their comfortable offices while they leave their people in our hands. Now that we have finally understood how rotten and cowardly the government in charge is, there is no point in communicating with them," the group said in a statement.

Yesterday it also emerged that alongside Russian opponents of Putin ambushed in Belgorod are fighting Polish volunteer units. Ukrainian special forces sources tell EL PAÍS that there are other foreign groups supporting the ultranationalists of the Freedom Legion of Russia. The use of weaponry by Ukraine's Western allies in assaults on Russian territory is cause for concern. The Belgian Government will ask Kiev for explanations for the use of its weapons supplied to Ukraine in this operation. The Washington Post reported Monday that American, Polish and Czech material has also been used. For the United States and for the main powers of the European Union, it is a red line that their weapons are not used against Russian territory.

Ukrainian authorities have said in recent weeks that their offensive was imminent. President Volodímir Zelenskiy gave an interview published this weekend by The Wall Street Journal in which he assured that his country is already prepared to launch the attack. "I think today we are ready," he replied before meeting European leaders in Moldova.

Kiev's allies also believe they have done their part. The spokesman for the US National Security Council, John Kirby, said on June 2 that all the weapons necessary for the counteroffensive had already been transferred. This includes M1A1 Abrams tanks and JDAM kits to turn free-fall projectiles into smart bombs capable of planning long distances to fall on their target.

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Source: elparis

All news articles on 2023-06-05

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