Military experts who closely watch the ongoing conflict in Ukraine are speculating that Kyiv’s long-awaited counteroffensive has already begun, even as both warring countries are minimizing reports of Ukrainian gains.
Ukrainian forces appear to have made small gains in parts of Bakhmut, the city in eastern Ukraine that has been the focal point of some of the war’s longest and bloodiest battles, with neither side able to gain full control, according to reports. But Russia’s defense ministry denied any truth behind reports of “defense breakthroughs,” while Ukrainian defense officials also attempted to shut down speculation of victories in Bakhmut and their role in setting off the expected large-scale counteroffensive, Reuters reported.
“This situation has actually been going on in the east for several months,” Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said on Friday in a social media post, according to Reuters. “That’s it! Nothing more is happening.” (RELATED: US Turns To China To Help End War In Ukraine)
On Thursday, the Ukrainian military said it was conducting “successful counterattacks” around Bakhmut, pushing the enemy back up to a mile in some places, CNN reported.
Russian military bloggers, often referenced by Ukraine war watchers in the West as a better gauge of the Russian perspective on the fighting than Moscow itself, have reported a deteriorating situation for the Russia side around Bakhmut, according to CNN.
Rob Lee, a Russian defense policy researcher, wrote Thursday that “a number of Russian Telegram channels believe Ukraine’s counteroffensive has begun,” with successful pushes near Bakhmut and Soledar.
— Shashank Joshi (@shashj) May 12, 2023
“The upcoming counteroffensive could be already ongoing,” Konrand Muzyka wrote in a conflict update on May 8 following Ukrainian attacks on Russian rail lines and storage facilities and repositioning of some Ukrainian fighting groups.
While at the time he was speculating about the launch of Ukrainian counterattack, “based on this week’s events, I am now almost certain that it has,” he said in a May 12 social media post.
On Thursday, Zelenskyy said the Ukrainian military needed more time to prepare for the counteroffensive as it awaited delivery of promised Western equipment, including armored vehicles that are still rolling into Ukraine “in batches,” BBC News reported.
“With [what we already have] we can go forward, and, I think, be successful,” he said in an interview. “But we’d lose a lot of people. I think that’s unacceptable. So we need to wait. We still need a bit more time.”
Experts suggested Zelenskyy could be purposefully concealing Ukraine’s actual plans for a counteroffensive.
“I don’t think any official statement about Ukraine being not ready can be taken at face value at this stage, when premium on deception is so high,” Shashank Joshi, defense editor at the Economist, wrote.
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