War in Ukraine: has the kyiv counter-offensive begun?

by time news

2023-06-06 11:46:45

With birdsong in the background, the video shows armed Ukrainian soldiers putting their index fingers to their mouths and making a “shh”. Broadcast on June 4 on social networks by the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense, it then continues with two messages: “plans love silence”; “there will be no announcement on the kick-off”. Implied: kyiv will not say when it will launch the counter-offensive, in preparation since the beginning of the year, to regain control of the territories occupied by Russian forces.

Contrary to its message, does this clip mark precisely the beginning of the reconquest operation? “We are ready,” President Volodymyr Zelensky said in an interview with Wall Street Journal published on June 3. However, it is impossible to be formal about the launch of the counter-offensive or its beginnings. But several signs confirm increased military activity Ukrainians on the front line.

For their part, the Russian authorities claimed to have postponed, “on the morning of June 4 […] a large-scale offensive in five sectors of the front in the direction of the south of the Donetsk region”. They released a video where one can see what they present as Ukrainian armor being destroyed by artillery fire While acknowledging further attacks the following day, they claim to have inflicted significant casualties on their adversary.

“A global offensive that does not exist”

A completely different story is heard in the Ukrainian camp. “In the south, the enemy is on the defensive, minor fighting continues to take place there,” said Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Ganna Maliar, who recognizes “offensive actions in some sectors”. Asked by the New York TimesAmerican officials evoke an increase in the movements of the Ukrainian positions and explain that June 4 corresponds “to the calendar”, provided by their Ukrainian counterparts, of a possible “thrust against the Russian forces”.

“There are battalion-led offensives in the Donbass, but no brigades yet [l’échelon supérieur, qui regroupe plusieurs bataillons, NDLR], notes Thibault Fouillet, researcher at the Foundation for Strategic Research. But is the major axis of effort there? We do not know. For now, these attacks are more of a test of certain areas of the front. It is then that the concentration of efforts on a specific area could come, as was the case in the direction of Kherson and east of Kharkiv, at the end of last summer.

Faithful to the message of the clip of June 4, the adviser to the Ukrainian presidency Mykhaïlo Podoliak indicated on his Twitter account that “Moscow is intensely active in repelling… a global offensive which does not exist”. Ganna Maliar specifies that the Russians “need to divert attention from the defeat in the direction of Bakhmut”, which she describes as the “epicenter of hostilities”.

Ukrainian advances on Bakhmut

Around the city conquered by Russia after months of a battle costing lives, the Ukrainians regained ground. “There, we are advancing on a fairly broad front, we are succeeding,” said Deputy Minister Ganna Malia. The leader of the Wagner militia, Evgueni Prigojine has also acknowledged the loss of the locality of Berkhivka, north of Bakhmut, blaming this failure on Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.

It is not certain that the priority objective of the Ukrainians is to take back this part of the Donbass. The “breaching” of Russian lines in occupied territory, consisting of minefields, anti-tank obstacles and trenches, remains a complex operation, requiring a high degree of coordination between engineer units, tank battalions, military units. infantry and artillery.

In the opinion of many specialists, a single counter-offensive does not seem capable of driving the Russians out of all the occupied territories. For the Ukrainians, the most advantageous breakthrough would be to reach the Black Sea in the sector of the city of Melitopol. The entire western part of the occupied zone, at the level of the eastern bank of the Dnieper, would be isolated, only connected to Russia by the Crimea and the Kerch bridge.

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