Though Ukrainian officials continue to deny or refuse confirmation that their long-awaited effort to reclaim land captured by Russian forces is in motion, a Washington, DC-based think tank keeping track of the war in Ukraine has declared that Kyiv’s counteroffensive against Russian soldiers has begun.
“The Ukrainian #counteroffensive has begun. Activity throughout #Ukraine is consistent with a variety of indicators that Ukrainian counteroffensive operations are underway across the theater,” the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said in a series of tweets late on Thursday.
The Ukrainian #counteroffensive has begun.
Activity throughout #Ukraine is consistent with a variety of indicators that Ukrainian counteroffensive operations are underway across the theater.
🧵on what we’re seeing & how to evaluate this activity ⬇️ https://t.co/hwgxTnU2Tr
— ISW (@TheStudyofWar) June 8, 2023
The ISW reported that it had “observed a general uptick in military activity across the entire front line, not all of it part of the Ukrainian counter-offensive effort” and that Ukrainian officials have confirmed that their forces are on the offensive in the Bakhmut region, where they have reportedly gained territory.
The ISW stated that the counteroffensive “won’t likely unfold as a single grand operation.” “It will likely consist of many undertakings at numerous locations of varying size and intensity over many weeks.”
Other experts have also come to the conclusion that the campaign has started amid reports of fighting intensifying in areas along the more than 1,000-kilometer (620-mile) front line from Kherson on the Black Sea to Ukraine’s border with Russia.
This is despite Ukrainian officials’ indications that the start of the counteroffensive will not be formally announced. The onslaught had begun, which cited “four individuals” in the armed forces and a senior officer stationed close to the front lines.
When questioned about the claims, a Ukrainian Armed Forces General Staff spokesman responded, “We have no such information.”
Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the president of Ukraine, praised what he called “results” of fierce combat in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donetsk in his nightly address on Thursday.
“I am in constant communication with our military—the commanders of Khortytsia, Tavria, [and] all those involved in the hottest areas. Donetsk region – very tough battles,” the man said.
“But there is a result, and I am grateful to everyone who ensures this result! Bakhmut – well done. Step by step. I thank each of our warriors!” Zelenskyy mentioned other battlefield locations, but he declined to reveal them.
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“The entire east, the situation in the south, the situation after the Russians blew up the dam of the native Kakhovka – we see every detail. But it’s not time to talk about it today.”
Michael Kofman of the Center for Naval Analyses, a US research organization, claimed in a podcast on Wednesday that the fighting had taken a “more qualitative turn” and that Ukrainian forces appeared to be mounting offensive operations close to the eastern town of Velyka Novosilka and other locations in the southern part of the Donetsk region, as well as on its border with the Zaporizhia region.
He remarked, “These attacks, I don’t believe [them] to be the main offensive effort, but they mark what I think is the beginning of the Ukrainian offensive.”
According to Jonah Hull of Al Jazeera, who is reporting from Kiev, Ukraine has made it plain that it would not provide “a running commentary on what is going on” because it doesn’t “want to give up the element of surprise,” the journalist added.
“What is or what may be going on now, well, military analysts have given their view, and their view is that Ukraine is engaged in a series of probing attacks, so-called shaping operations ahead of the counteroffensive,” said Hull.
He said, “Probing Russian weaknesses, looking for vulnerabilities and, at the same time, essentially keeping Russia guessing.”
In the early hours of Thursday, Russia claimed its soldiers engaged Ukrainian forces in a two-hour combat in the Zaporizhia region.
Sergei Shoigu, the minister of defense for Russia, claimed that 150 armored vehicles and 1,500 soldiers were involved in the Ukrainian onslaught. He declared, “The enemy was stopped and retreated after heavy losses.”
Hanna Maliar, the deputy minister of defense for Ukraine, merely mentioned that Russia was engaged in “defensive actions” close to the Zaporizhia town of Orikhiv.
The opening stage of Ukraine’s counteroffensive operations, according to the ISW, will probably be the most expensive and challenging in terms of lives lost and equipment destroyed as troops and armor attempt to breach Russia’s defensive positions.
“Militaries have long identified the penetration phase of a mechanized offensive as the most dangerous and costly. The success or failure of this phase may not be apparent for some time,” the ISW said.
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