Ukrainian forces have made advancements in the area surrounding Bakhmut, according to Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Maliar, who referred to the eastern city as the “epicentre of hostilities.” It remains unclear whether the anticipated counter-offensive has commenced. In a separate development, Russia’s military announced that it had thwarted a new attack in the eastern Donetsk region on Monday. Bakhmut has been the focal point of intense conflict for months, holding symbolic importance for both Kyiv and Moscow.
Ukraine and Russia’s claims from Monday have not been independently confirmed. Early on Tuesday, air raid sirens blared across Ukraine for several hours. In the capital Kyiv, city officials reported that all missiles, numbering over 20, were intercepted based on preliminary information.
In a social media post on Monday, Maliar stated that “despite stiff resistance and the enemy’s attempts to hold their positions, our military units advanced in several directions during the fighting.” She reported that Ukrainian troops gained between 200m and 1,600m in Orikhovo-Vasulivka and Paraskoviivka, and between 100m and 700m in Ivanivske and Klishchiivka. All four villages are situated within a few kilometres of Bakhmut. The battle for the city in the Donetsk region has been the longest and deadliest of the war.
In a video address late on Monday, President Volodymyr Zelensky expressed gratitude to Ukrainian fighters for delivering “the news we are expecting” regarding the Bakhmut direction. “The enemy knows that Ukraine will win,” he declared.
In late May, the Russian paramilitary group Wagner claimed to have captured the city. Some analysts have recently speculated that Kyiv’s forces are attempting to encircle Bakhmut and trap Russian units. A major Ukrainian counter-offensive has long been anticipated, but Kyiv has already stated that it will not provide advance notice of its initiation.
There has been a noticeable uptick in military activity, with Ukraine claiming to have made marginal gains elsewhere along the front line. The latest reports are being interpreted as a new indication that the expected Ukrainian push may have started.
On Monday, the Russian defence ministry announced that it had repelled a new attack by Ukrainian forces in Donetsk. In a statement quoted by state-run media, the ministry claimed that the attacking side suffered heavy casualties and that 28 tanks, including eight German-made Leopards, were destroyed. This information has not been verified by the BBC.
Yevgeniy Prigozhin, head of Wagner, publicly ridiculed the Russian defence ministry, characterising its statement as “wild fantasy.” This follows Moscow’s assertion on Sunday that a Ukrainian “large-scale offensive” in the Donetsk region had commenced but was unsuccessful. Ukraine’s military stated that it had no information about such a significant attack in the region.
Russia released video footage of what it claimed was the battle in Donetsk, showing military vehicles under heavy fire in fields. Russia alleges that it killed 300 troops and destroyed 16 tanks. “We do not have such information and we do not comment on any kind of fake,” a Ukrainian army spokesperson informed Reuters.
There has been a marked increase in Ukrainian messaging regarding the timing and nature of their counter-offensive. Ukraine has been planning such a move for months, but it has sought as much time as possible to train troops and receive military equipment from Western allies.
Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba stated that his country now possesses sufficient weapons for a counter-offensive but declined to comment on whether it had begun, according to Reuters. Kyiv officials have cautioned against public speculation about the offensive, arguing that it could aid the enemy.
“Plans love silence. There will be no announcement of the start,” the defence ministry said in a recently posted video featuring masked and well-armed troops holding their fingers against their lips. It will take Ukraine time to achieve its goal of liberating territory seized by Russia as far back as nine years ago, and Moscow has had time to prepare. This means that if Ukraine can launch a counter-offensive, it will be a lengthy process.
Much is at stake because the government in Kyiv must demonstrate to the people of Ukraine and Western allies that it can break through Russian lines, end the effective military stalemate, and reclaim some of its sovereign territory.
In other news, fighters opposing the Moscow government claim to have captured some Russian soldiers in Belgorod, near the Ukraine border. The Liberty of Russia Legion (FRL) made the announcement in a joint statement with the Russian Volunteer Corps (RDK). Both groups seek to overthrow Russian President Vladimir Putin and oppose the full-scale invasion of Ukraine that he initiated in February last year.
Russia has accused Ukraine of recent attacks in its border territories, but Kyiv denies direct involvement. Meanwhile, President Zelensky met with UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly in Kyiv on Monday. Zelensky stated that the pair discussed expectations for the upcoming Nato summit in Vilnius in July and Ukraine’s peace proposals.
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