After liberating several frontline villages in June, Ukraine says it has made further ground gains on the eastern and southern fronts against invading Russian forces as its counteroffensive continues.
According to Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar, the Ukrainian military retook 14.4 square miles of territory in fierce fighting during the last week of the month as its soldiers advanced near Bakhmut and in the Lyman, Avdiivka and Mariinka directions of Donetsk in the Donbass.
Of this, 3.5 square miles was in the east of the country. Ms Mailar attributed the success to the fact that the Ukrainian side “improved operational measures”. [tactical] Positioning and Alignment of the Front Line”.
The remaining 10.9 square miles were reclaimed in the south, bringing the total area reclaimed in the south to 61.2 square miles, according to Kyiv.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a post on messaging app Telegram: “Last week was difficult on the front lines. But we’re making progress.
“We’re going step by step! Thank you to everyone who is defending Ukraine, to everyone who is waging this war to the victory of Ukraine!”
For its part, Russia said it repelled Ukrainian attacks in Bakhmut and the southern mountain town of Wuhledar, while the hard-pressed Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu denied that the short-lived uprising by Wagner Group mercenaries that saw them occupy Rostov-on-sea took place . Don and the June 24 protest march on Moscow had no impact on his operations in Ukraine.
“The provocation did not affect the actions of the army groups [involved in the operation]he said at a ministerial meeting in the Kremlin.
After months of speculation as to when Ukraine’s counter-offensive might begin, unconfirmed photos and videos surfaced on social media on Sunday, June 11, showing soldiers waving their country’s blue and yellow flag in triumph over the eastern villages of Storozheve, Blahodatne, Neskuchne and Makarivka in Donetsk, suggesting that they had been recaptured by enemy occupying forces.
Ms. Maliar published such a photo from Storozheve and thanked the 35th Separate Brigade of Marines for the liberation and subsequently reported that Ukraine had won back three more villages in Zaporizhia – Lobkove, Levadne and Novodarivk – and advanced again at Bakhmut, on the Toretsk Front in the east and towards the port city of Berdyansk.
“The enemy is doing everything to hold the positions they have captured,” Ms. Maliar wrote on Telegram two days later.
She added that Russian forces had air support and were showering Ukrainian troops with intense artillery fire and that they were encountering “continuous minefields combined with anti-tank ditches.”
“All this is associated with constant counterattacks by enemy units on armored vehicles and the massive use of ATGMs [anti-tank guided missiles] and kamikaze drones,” Ms. Mailer reported.
A team of Reuters journalists then visited Neskuchne and found that no building had been spared the fighting. Noting three Russian bodies lying on the road, they wrote: “Silence reigned in the village save for birdsong and the crackle of artillery fire in the distance.” ”
Since then, two more villages have emerged added to the listbringing the reported total to nine.
Kiev has imposed strict silence on its forces so as not to jeopardize an operation it hopes will retake tracts of land and eventually threaten the land bridge that Russia has built to supply occupied Crimea.
In practice, the progress represented by the recapture of the villages represents only a modest gain: Makarivka, for example, is about five kilometers from the front line and 90 kilometers from the southern edge of the above-mentioned bridge over the Sea of Azov.
But the symbolic value of Ukraine’s fastest progress in seven months after a harsh winter is clear, a timely boost in national morale for a beleaguered nation still suffering from the collapse of the Nova Kakhovka dam, allegedly after a Russian soldiers flooded neighboring towns for miles and swamped the region’s farmlands, destroying crops and drowning livestock.
As the counteroffensive continues, Ukraine is relying on the vast amount of weapons, training and intelligence it has received from the West, combined with its own battlefield determination, tactical acumen and motivation to drive an invader out of its own country , to give her a head start in the conflict.
The country also knows it may need to make significant progress over the summer to ensure its international allies show the same level of commitment going forward.
So far, however, the reaction has been positive, and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg recently told US President Joe Biden: “Ukrainians are making progress, making progress.” While it is still early days, we know: the more land Ukrainians can liberate , the stronger they will be at the negotiating table.”
Moscow has largely failed to officially recognize any advances by Ukraine, insisting that it has consistently repelled attacks and inflicted heavy casualties on opposition forces.
Unconfirmed footage circulating on social media of pro-Russian reports, meanwhile, showed destroyed American and German armored vehicles clearly aimed at undermining Allied confidence in the Ukrainian cause.
It is undoubtedly too early to draw any conclusions about the fate of the counteroffensive from these early engagements, which may be more about testing Russian defenses than about staking out major land gains.
The US-based Institute for the Study of War said Ukraine is attempting “an extraordinarily difficult tactical operation, a frontal attack on prepared defensive positions made more difficult by a lack of air superiority, and these initial attacks should not be extrapolated to cover all Ukrainian operations.” to predict.” “.
Ben Hodges, a former commander of US forces in Europe, told the Center for European Policy Analysis that the main attack, if it came, was likely to involve several hundred tanks and infantry fighting vehicles.
“The offensive has definitely started, but I don’t think the main attack is going on,” he said.
“If we see large formations of tanks joining the attack, then I think we will know that the main attack really has started.”
That ties in with Ms Mailar’s recent comments on domestic television, when she told the nation the “key events” of the attack were “ahead of us,” adding: “The main blow is yet to come.”
A similar statement was made by Oleksandr Syrskyi, the commander of the Ukrainian ground forces The guard: “I would like to say that our main forces are not yet engaged in combat, and we are now looking for and plumbing weak points in enemy defenses. It’s all ahead of us.”
Additional reporting by agencies