The Washington, DC-based Institute for War Research says the Ukraine counteroffensive is unlikely to unfold as ‘one big operation’.
Kiev’s counteroffensive against Russian forces has begun, said a Washington, DC-based think tank that monitors the war in Ukraine, although Ukrainian officials have refused or rejected confirmation that their long-awaited campaign to retake territory occupied by Russian forces is underway.
“Ukrainian #counteroffensive has begun. Activity across #Ukraine is consistent with various indicators that Ukrainian counteroffensive operations are underway across the theater,” the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said in a series of tweets late Thursday.
Ukrainian officials have confirmed that their forces are on the offensive in the Bagmud region – where they are said to have gained ground – and the ISW said it had “noticed a general improvement in military operations along the entire front line. The Ukrainian counter-offensive effort”.
The ISW said the counterattack “will not unfold as a major operation”.
“It will have multiple entities in multiple locations of varying size and intensity over multiple weeks.”
Ukrainian #Counterattack It has started.
function throughout #Ukraine This is consistent with various indicators that Ukrainian counteroffensive operations are underway across the theater.
🧵What we see & how to evaluate this activity ⬇️ https://t.co/hwgxTnU2Tr
— ISW (@TheStudyofWar) June 8, 2023
While Ukrainian officials have signaled that the start of the counteroffensive will not be officially announced, other experts have concluded that the campaign has begun amid reports of intensifying fighting in areas along the 1,000-kilometer (620-mile) front line. From Kherson on the Black Sea to Ukraine’s border with Russia.
NBC News, citing a senior officer and a soldier near the front lines, said the attack had begun, while the Washington Post reported the same information Thursday, citing “four people” in the armed forces.
Asked about those reports, a spokesman for the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine told Reuters news agency: “We don’t have such information.”
In a speech Thursday night, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky described what he described as “consequences” of heavy fighting in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk region.
“I am in constant touch with our army. The commanders of Cortecia, Tavria, [and] All involved in hot areas. Donetsk region – the most difficult battles, he said.
“But there is a decision, and I am grateful to all those who ensure this decision! Bakmut – well done. Step by step. I thank each of our warriors!
Zelensky mentioned other battlefield areas, but said now was not the time to discuss them.
“The situation in the whole east, the south, the situation after the Russians blew up the dam of the native Khakovka – we see every detail. But there is no time to talk about it today.”
In a podcast on Wednesday, Michael Gofman of the Center for Naval Analysis, a US research group, said the fighting had taken a “higher qualitative turn” as Ukrainian forces appeared to be carrying out offensive operations near the eastern city of Velika Novosilka and other areas. The southern part of the Donetsk region, as well as on its border with the Zaporizhia region.
“These attacks, I don’t believe [them] “They represent what I think is the beginning of the Ukrainian offensive, which should be a major offensive effort,” he said.
Al Jazeera’s Jonah Hull, reporting from Kyiv, said Ukraine has made it clear it will not give “a running commentary on what’s going on” because it appears it “doesn’t want to leave the element of surprise”.
“What’s happening now, or what’s happening, is that military analysts have given their view, and Ukraine is engaged in a series of reconnaissance strikes, so-called shaping operations in advance of a counterattack,” Hull said.
“Probing Russian weaknesses, looking for vulnerabilities and, at the same time, keeping Russia guessing,” he said.
Russia said its forces engaged in a two-hour battle with Ukrainian troops early Thursday in the Zaporizhia region.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said the Ukrainian offensive involved 1,500 soldiers and 150 armored vehicles.
“The enemy was halted and retreated after heavy losses,” he said.
Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said only that Russia was conducting “defensive operations” near the city of Origiv in the Zaporizhia region.
According to ISW, the initial phase of Ukraine’s counteroffensive operations would be costly and difficult in terms of casualties and equipment destroyed as troops and armor attempt to penetrate Russian defense positions.
“Milities have long identified the penetration phase of a mechanized attack as the most dangerous and costly. Success or failure of this phase may not be apparent for some time,” ISW said.