Ukrainian forces were making a major effort to end months of battlefield stalemate and break through Russian defensive lines in southeast Ukraine for a second day, with Russian officials saying Moscow’s forces have foiled at least one assault.
Authorities in Kiev said their forces were indeed ramping up offensive operations and making gains, but suggested some of the Russian announcements were disinformation as speculation about a widely anticipated counteroffensive after more than 15 months of war grows.
Vladimir Rogov, an official in the Russian-backed administration of Ukraine’s partially occupied Zaporizhzhia province, said fighting resumed on Monday on the border with eastern Donetsk province after Russian defenses repulsed a Ukrainian advance on the day. previous.
“The enemy threw an even bigger force into the attack than yesterday (Sunday),” and the new attempt to break through the front line was “more large-scale and organized,” Rogov said, adding, “It is there’s a battle going on.”
Rogov interpreted the Ukrainian military moves as part of an effort to reach the Azov Sea coast and sever the land corridor to the Crimean peninsula, which Moscow annexed in 2014. Analysts have long thought such a strategy likely because it would cut Russian forces in two and strain supplies to Crimea, which has been a major Russian military center in the war that started on February 24, 2022.
Rogov’s comments came after Moscow also said its forces thwarted major Ukrainian attacks in Donetsk province, near the border with Zaporizhzhia province.
In reaction to Russia’s claims that it has repulsed the Ukrainian offensives, a US official said, on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive issues, that “we have no reason to believe that any Russian action has had a negative effect on ongoing operations or ongoing in Ukraine”.
Deputy Defense Minister of Ukraine Hanna Malyar said that the Ukrainian military was making gains.
“Despite fierce resistance and enemy attempts to keep lines and positions occupied, our units moved in different directions during the fighting,” he said.
Malyar did not distinguish between phases of the war, insisting that Ukraine’s defense against Russia’s invasion “contains everything, including counter-offensive actions”. He acknowledged that Kiev forces “in some areas … are moving towards offensive operations”.
Retired British General Richard Barrons, co-chairman of UK-based strategic consultancy Universal Defense & Security Solutions, said Ukraine was “clearly in the preliminary stage” of its counter-offensive.
“The focus will be on tanks, artillery and infantry – this is the most visible spearhead,” he told the Associated Press, noting that the counteroffensive would also include politics, diplomacy, information and cyber warfare.
Ukraine often waits until its military operations are completed to confirm its actions.