The long-awaited Ukrainian counter-offensive against Russian forces appears to have begun, or at least, a pilot version of it has begun. According to reports coming in since yesterday, Russian frontline troops have been driven back by the Ukrainian military in at least two areas near Bakhmut, in Donetsk. Some reports have also cited the Russian statement that it had thwarted Ukrainian attacks.
As per reports, there has been some intensive fighting near Bakhmut, the administrative centre of the Donetsk region. Russia has practically admitted that it is in a difficult situation there. Ukraine is not calling this is a counter-offensive, but has stated that its military is “shifting to offensive actions” in some areas.
The news agency Reuters reported last evening, quoting Yevgeny Prigozhin, leader of the private army Wagner, that Ukrainian forces had taken back some territory near Bakhmut. Wagner had captured Bakhmut last month after a pitched battle and then handed over control to regular Russian troops. However, Ukrainian troops continued their attacks and made significant advances.
Through his own press service, Wagner leader Prigozhin yesterday issued a message: “Now part of the settlement of Berkhivka has already been lost, the troops are quietly running away. Disgrace!” Berkhivka is a village about 3km northwest of Bakhmut.
Denis Pushilin, the official who represents Russia in the occupied part of Donetsk, said on Russian state television that the situation around Bakhmut was “under control” but “very difficult”.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has not yet formally issued any statement on the reported retreat of his troops. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has praised his “warriors” and, at the same time, mourned the loss of an estimated 500 children in Russian attacks since the beginning of the war, pointing out how their potential to become anything was cut short by the conflict.
What has been clear for some time now is that even as Zelenskyy continues to lobby for an air defence “jets coalition” to be established by his allies, he is preparing to launch the counter-offensive with the resources he has been supplied so far. Until recently, he had been saying that launching a counter-offensive without enough equipment would result in a huge loss of lives.
As good news came from the front yesterday, Zelenskyy showered high praise on “all our defenders, men and women”.
In a long Twitter post, Zelenskyy said: “Although the global trend is clear — Russia will lose this war, Russia’s rulers continue to deny reality. They continue to try to deceive the world, to circumvent sanctions, to produce more weapons, to ensure [that] more resources and people are spent on this aggression… We are preparing our steps, new steps to further limit Russia’s military potential.”