The Ukrainian military claimed it was making gains on Monday along a broad front in the Bakhmut region, the “epicentre” of hostilities, amid Russian claims that a long-awaited Ukrainian counteroffensive may be underway.
“We are successful, occupying the dominant heights” surrounding Bakhmut, Deputy Defense Minister Hana Maliar said on Telegram. “The enemy is on the defensive. He wants to hold his position.”
Ukrainian officials said they would not officially announce the start of the counterattack, but the Russian Defense Ministry claimed on Monday that Ukrainian forces had launched a “large-scale offensive on five sectors of the front in the southern Donetsk region”. Bakhmut is located in the region.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, whose mercenary Wagner is credited with capturing Bakhmut months after the battle, had harsh words for the Russian regular forces assigned to control the region. He said that a nearby settlement had fallen and that the forces had abandoned their positions.
Pro-Russian military blogger Semen Pegov, aka WarGonzo, wrote that “the news from the front lines… grows more disturbing by the hour.” “The Armed Forces of Ukraine, unlike yesterday, are working more harmoniously and in an organized way,” Pegov added.
“The enemy has put us in a difficult position,” warned Aleksandr Khodakovsky, deputy head of Russia’s National Guard in the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic.
∙ Fighting resumed on its border with the eastern region of Donetsk on Monday, Vladimir Rogov, a Russian official in Ukraine’s partially occupied Zaporizhye region, said after Russian defenses held off a Ukrainian advance the day before.
Zaporizhia and Donetsk are two of the four provinces that President Vladimir Putin declared Russian territory last fall. Russia occupies much of both provinces.
What would the Ukrainian counterattack look like?
Ukraine has revealed very little about how and when it intends to recover lands claimed by the Russians since the war began, living under the slogan “plans love silence”.
Analysts generally believe that Ukrainian military leaders aim to reach the Azov Sea coast and cut off Russia’s so-called land corridor in eastern and southern Ukraine to Crimea, which the Kremlin illegally annexed in 2014 and uses as a major military outpost. .
Retired British General Richard Barrons told the Associated Press that the counterattack will not be limited to military operations, but also politics, diplomacy, information and electronic warfare. He indicated that the initial phase of the campaign had clearly begun.
“The focus will be on tanks, artillery and infantry – that’s the most obvious spear tip,” Barrons said.
Malyar, who is among the most outspoken of Ukrainian officials, said she did not differentiate between phases of the war but acknowledged that the country’s forces were “in some areas… switching to offensive operations”.
The US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control on Monday designated seven members of a group linked to Russian intelligence for their role in Russia’s campaign of destabilization in Moldova on Monday. The sanctioned parties are part of a large global media operation linked to the Russian Federation targeting Ukraine and Ukraine’s neighbors including Moldova, the Balkan countries, the European Union, the United Kingdom and the United States.
“These actors provoked, trained, and supervised groups in democratic countries conducting anti-government protests, rallies, marches, and demonstrations,” the Treasury Department said in a statement.
Contributing: The Associated Press
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