By Editor: June 17th, 2023.
Ukraine’s Commander of ground forces, Colonel General Oleksandr Syrskyi, said the situation in the east of the country remains “tense” and that battle plans for the counteroffensive against Russian forces will still need to be adjusted.
“Despite the advance of our troops in the south and the loss of territory and settlements in this direction, the enemy continues to move some of the most combat-capable units to the Bakhmut direction, combining these actions with powerful artillery fire and strikes by assault and army aircraft on the positions of our troops,” he said.
Russia’s defence ministry said its forces have repelled numerous Ukrainian counterattacks over the last 24 hours and inflicted significant losses in the south Donetsk and Donetsk directions. More than 500 Ukrainian soldiers were killed and five tanks were destroyed, the ministry said.
Ukraine’s counteroffensive against Russian forces has not yet gained the momentum that some overly optimistic observers anticipated.
Offensive operations so far have yielded modest gains in the southern regions like Zaporizhzhia with multi-layered Russian defenses proving tough to crack, says CNN. The area is seen as a major target for Ukraine as it would mean breaking Russia’s land-bridge between annexed Crimea and eastern Donetsk.
But there are also signs that Ukrainian forces are spreading their bets, looking to pare back Russian gains around Bakhmut and exploiting what they perceive as vulnerabilities elsewhere in the east.
On Thursday, an adviser to the head of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s office, Mykhailo Podolyak, said the first goal was to wipe out as many Russian draftee units as possible and “increase the psychological pressure on the Russian army.”
“At the same time,” he said, Ukrainian units are “testing to see which areas are the weakest.”
This has included fresh assault operations around Bakhmut designed to force the Russians to send more units to defend a city they took more than six months to destroy and occupy. On Friday, the commander of Ukrainian Land Forces, Oleksandr Syrskyi, said the Russians “continue to move some of the most combat-ready units to the Bakhmut direction.”
Perhaps more surprisingly, there are indications that the Ukrainians are on the front foot near the city of Donetsk, long a frozen line of contact, and further south around what has been the equally static but highly kinetic Vuhledar front.
The Ukrainians have the luxury of picking areas to attack; the Russians must try to defend a meandering front-line nearly 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) long, with some units that have already been mauled and patched up.
Sources: CNN, Al Jazeera, BBC, news agencies.