The Ukrainian military launches a counterattack against the Russian occupation. For weeks, the Ukrainian army has been “shaping” a 600-mile frontline from the south to the northeast. To destroy Russia’s military. Nighttime attack drones have destroyed enemy tanks and positions for Ukrainian forces. Long-range strikes have hit weaponry and fuel installations. Kyiv has fired British Storm Shadow missiles into eastern cities like Luhansk, which Russia seized in 2014, and the captured ports of Mariupol and Berdiansk.
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With caveats. The Ukrainian army advanced in numerous areas on Sunday night, and fighting along the frontlines in Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia escalated. Ukrainian officials did not acknowledge that the months-long counteroffensive had begun. Ukraine emphasizes operational secrecy. Oleksii Reznikov, the defense minister, released a weekend video of soldiers placing their fingers to their mouths. Reznikov quoted Depeche Mode: “Words are very unnecessary. They only harm.”
Ukrainian commanders claim counteroffensive is overused. Instead, they discuss a “spring-summer military campaign” lasting through September and possibly beyond. This campaign is live again. Its success is still being determined. Ukraine appears to be testing Russian lines to identify flaws and breakthroughs. The real thrust will come later. Ukraine wants to cut Russia’s southern land corridor. That means separating Crimea, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson from the eastern Donbas along the left bank of the Dnipro River.
Russian military bloggers said that Ukraine attacked overnight west of Vuhledar, on the administrative border between Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia provinces. The head of the pro-Moscow Vostok battalion, Alexander Khodakovsky, said Ukrainian forces had advanced around Velyka Novosilka in southern Donetsk. “So far, Ukraine has been successful,” he said as 10 Ukrainian armored vehicles approached Zolota Niva and Novodonetske. Pro-Kremlin bloggers stated Ukraine had produced a minor “wedge” in the lines.
Khodakovsky said Russian drones found 30 Ukrainian military vehicles on Sunday. However, “due to limited capabilities,” the Russians could not determine where Ukrainian soldiers planned to maneuver. The Ukrainian strike group reached the attack line nearly unannounced. The enemy weakened us by limiting Russian communications. “The situation is developing,” he stated on Telegram. The Russian defense ministry stopped a “major offensive” by two Ukrainian brigades. It said hundreds of Ukrainian servicemen died.
Russia’s defenses—how strong?
Since November 2022, when Ukraine liberated Kherson in the south and most of Kharkiv oblast in the northeast, the frontline has remained primarily intact; Russia dug in since. Its goal is to retain territory acquired last year in the early weeks of Vladimir Putin’s full-scale assault. According to the British Ministry of Defence, engineers have built the world’s largest fortifications for decades. Satellite images depict first-world-war trenches.
They are in the south of Ukraine, occupied Crimea, and outside Mariupol.
Ukrainian army will struggle. Three Russian defensive lines are kilometers apart. They feature 5-meter-wide by 3-meter-deep anti-tank ditches and “dragon’s teeth”—pyramidal concrete blocks that delay military vehicles. To prevent Ukrainians from crossing from the liberated right bank, the Russians mined the entire frontline and installed floating mines in the Dnipro River.
Rivers are significant geographic obstacles. Last month, Ukrainian general Roman Kostenko warned, “Mines are a big risk for us.” He added that Ukrainian infantry would move more accessible in the east, where Russia had more men but fewer mines.
Ukraine’s military strength?
Ukraine is building a powerful military for its counteroffensive. According to leaked Pentagon records, it has organized 12 brigades with 60,000 troops. Ukraine’s Western allies supplied main battle tanks to nine squadrons. London-sent Challenger 2 tanks and Nato-standard armor and weaponry. Germany filled Leopard 2 tanks and Marder infantry combat vehicles. Scores of US Strykers and Cougars arrived in Kyiv discreetly. The UK and others have trained hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers and tank crews for the onslaught. Many had never served.
Russia has a larger army and more missiles and ammunition after 15 months of full-scale conflict. In spring, a secret Pentagon report warned the Ukrainian military has “force generation and sustainment shortfalls.” It predicted “modest territorial gains” from Ukraine’s liberation. Volodymyr Zelenskiy has convinced Western partners to sell Kyiv F-16 fighter fighters. These may come in September. Valerii Zaluzhnyi, Ukraine’s commander-in-chief, hopes to make headway with his meager forces.