Has Ukraine's counteroffensive already begun? Kiev and Moscow contradict each other – but there are reports of new attacks.
Kiev – Contrary to Moscow's hopes, Russia has not been able to conquer Ukraine in just a few weeks. About 16 months after its invasion, the Russian army occupies the east and southeast of Ukraine, but does not make any further progress. The invaders have been working their way through the strategically rather insignificant city of Bakhmut for months – and are suffering heavy losses almost daily. Tens of thousands of soldiers have already been killed there.
Meanwhile, Kyiv says it is preparing the armed forces for a counteroffensive aimed at initiating victory in the Ukraine war. Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said the army was sufficiently equipped to launch the advance, but did not want to give a date for the start. Several government officials shared a video on social media calling for silence on possible reports of a counteroffensive and military strategy. "Plans love silence," they say. The message: When the counteroffensive begins, there will be no announcement. But new statements from Kiev and reports from the front make you sit up and take notice.
Moscow speaks of failed attack by Ukraine
The Kremlin claims that the Ukrainian counteroffensive is already underway and has been successfully repelled by Russian troops. The Russian Ministry of Defense announced via Telegram on June 4 that Ukraine had "launched a large-scale offensive in five sectors of the front in the south of Donetsk." Russia's commander-in-chief Valery Gerasimov was in a larger command post 60 kilometers west of the city of Donetsk when the attack occurred.
Kiev had always denied reports that the counteroffensive to regain occupied territories had already begun. However, official announcements mention that there have been clashes and advances in the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts. Asked about a major Ukrainian attack, Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar now took a stand: "It's not just about Bakhmut. The offensive is taking place in several directions. We are happy about every meter. Today is a successful day for our armed forces," she said on Ukrainian television on Monday, according to CNN. However, the army itself continues to keep a low profile. Army spokesman Bohdan Senyk said that Ukraine had "no information" about a large-scale attack in the Donetsk region.
A video still provided by the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense shows a Ukrainian soldier holding a finger in front of his mouth. Kiev demands silence on a possible counteroffensive by its troops. © Uncredited/Ukrainian Defense Ministry/AP/dpa
Former British military intelligence officer and observer Philip Ingram told Newsweek that the first phase of the counteroffensive has been going on for weeks. Kiev had prepared the combat zone and attacked Russia's logistical hubs, command posts and air defense. "We're probably seeing the transition to phase two, where several areas on the font are to be explored." Ingram believes that Kiev wants to identify weaknesses in the enemy and leave the Russian army in the dark about where the major attacks will take place. "When the Ukrainian plans for the optimal positions for main attacks are confirmed, the transition to the next phase will follow." Attacks on Russian territory near Belgorod could also contribute to the confusion and distraction of the Russian army.
Russian fighters contradict Kremlin
"The enemy's goal was to break through Russia's defenses at the front where it is considered most vulnerable," Moscow said. "The enemy was not successful in achieving his goals." The Ministry of Defense spoke on Telegram on Tuesday of "heavy losses" and over 1,500 Ukrainian soldiers killed. In addition, dozens of tanks and combat vehicles were destroyed.
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Alexander Khodakovsky, leader of the separatist Vostok battalion fighting in the Donbass, contradicted the Kremlin's success stories, which rarely come true anyway. Via Telegram, he said that Ukrainian troops had had "tactical success" in the area, albeit with "noticeable losses". He does not assume that the Ukrainian attacks are already the announced counteroffensive. However, if Ukraine were to make a breakthrough, Kyiv could send more troops into the area.
Zelensky calls for fighter jets for counteroffensive
The Russian military blogger "War Gonzo" reports "heavy fighting" in a village near the city of Wuhledar. Ukrainian troops had advanced at least two kilometers into an area that pro-Russian fighters had just controlled. "Today is obviously not going to be an easy day," he added on Telegram.
Ukrainian soldiers are in their positions at the front. Has the counteroffensive already begun? © Iryna Rybakova/dpa
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky expects his army to launch a successful counteroffensive. However, he did not know how long this would take. Secondly, he acknowledged Russia's superiority in the air. According to the Wall Street Journal, Zelensky expects many soldiers to die in the counteroffensive because they do not have a "roof" to back them up. Thus, the president emphasized his demand for allied states to supply fighter jets to Ukraine in order to minimize losses. (LRG)