Ukraine’s long-awaited counter-offensive against Russian forces may have begun, as Russian President Vladimir Putin recently confirmed in a video interview. For weeks, Ukraine has been carrying out “shaping operations,” which involve long-range artillery and missile attacks on crucial Russian logistical targets. Small Ukrainian units have now moved towards Russian fortifications in southern Ukraine, southeast of Zaporizhzhia, indicating a possible shift in tactics.
Serhii Kuzan, co-founder and chairman of the Ukrainian Security and Cooperation Centre, stated that the so-called “fighting reconnaissance stage” is taking place along the entire front, probing Russian defences. He added that some of these operations have been more successful than others, with varying degrees of losses.
The world’s attention was recently drawn to the destruction of the dam at Nova Kakhovka and the subsequent flooding that covered around 230 square miles (596 sq km) on either side of the Dnipro River. It is highly likely that Russian forces, who controlled the dam, decided to blow it up to prevent a potential Ukrainian attack.
Ukraine has shown interest in this stretch of the front line before, with soldiers crossing the river and briefly establishing a bridgehead at Oleshky in late April. They also took control of several small islands in the Dnipro delta, near Kherson.
As Kyiv dealt with the flooding, fighting continued and seemed to escalate further east. The UK’s Ministry of Defence tweeted that “heavy fighting continues along multiple sectors of the front,” with Ukraine holding the initiative in most areas. Russia’s defence minister, Sergei Shoigu, stated that Russian forces had repelled an overnight Ukrainian attack south of Zaporizhzhia, involving 150 armoured vehicles and 1,500 troops.
Hanna Malyar, the Deputy Defence Minister, acknowledged that battles were ongoing around Velyka Novosilka and Orikhiv. These towns are believed to be part of a heavily fortified stretch of the front line where Ukraine may attempt to break through Russian lines. Kuzan said that one of Ukraine’s main goals is to cut the land corridor that feeds the southern grouping of enemy forces.
Despite the recent developments, Oleksiy Danilov, Secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defence Council, dismissed the idea that the counter-offensive had started. He told Reuters, “When we start the counter-offensive, everyone will know about it. They will see it.”
However, Serhii Kuzan noted that the front is finally moving and that several options remain open for Ukrainian commanders. He also mentioned that Ukraine’s lack of fighter jets and the limited time frame of the offensive, which may last no more than five months, are significant constraints.
If Ukrainian forces manage to break through Russian lines to the Sea of Azov, Russian troops west of the breach would become more vulnerable, relying entirely on supply lines through the Crimean Peninsula. Kuzan suggested that the final steps would be to destroy the Kerch Bridge linking Russia with Crimea and attack the ships and planes used for supplies. However, he warned that this process could take months.
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