Ukrainian offensive ‘develops in several directions’, officials say

(CNN) — Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar told Ukrainian television on Monday that a Ukrainian offensive was underway “in several directions”, hinting that a major offensive in Kiev could be underway to retake the territory. occupied by Russian forces.

“It’s not just about Bakhmut. The offensive is going in different directions. We are happy with every yard. Today is a successful day for our forces,” he said.

In recent weeks, the Ukrainian army has intensified preparatory operations: strikes against Russian targets, such as fuel and weapons depots located far from the front lines, which often precede a major advance by ground forces. But Ukrainian officials were careful to say that the start of a counter-offensive would not be announced.

Both Ukraine and Russia have engaged in intensive information campaigns to sway public opinion and mislead their opponents about their battle plans.

Maliar’s remarks came after Russia’s Defense Ministry claimed its troops resisted a “large-scale” attack by Ukrainian forces in the eastern Donetsk region. The Russian military claimed in a statement that it killed 250 Ukrainians and destroyed armored vehicles used in the assault, but provided little evidence.

Moscow is notorious for making exaggerated claims about Ukrainian losses. CNN was unable to independently verify the claim.

Bohdan Senyk, spokesman for Ukraine’s armed forces, told CNN that Ukraine had “no information” about an alleged “large-scale offensive” in Donetsk.

Ukrainian troops appear near the town of Avdiivka in Donetsk May 31, 2023. Moscow said it repelled an attack by kyiv forces in the eastern region on Sunday. Credit: Viacheslav Ratynskyi/Reuters

In a message on its official Telegram channel, the Russian Defense Ministry said the assault took place on “five sections of the front in the southern direction of Donetsk”.

The ministry said the purpose of the Ukrainian operation was to “break through” Russian defenses in what it considered “the most vulnerable area of ​​the front”.

At the time of the attack, Russian General Valery Gerasimov “was in one of the command and control outposts,” the statement added.

Gerasimov, the Russian Chief of Staff, assumed overall command of Russian military operations in Ukraine earlier this year. The leader of the group russian mercenary Wagner publicly criticized him for allegedly directing the war from a comfortable office.

zelensky counteroffensive

President Zelensky gave few details about kyiv’s long-awaited spring counteroffensive. Credit: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Further south, a Russian official in Zaporizhia said Ukrainian troops were trying to break through a defense line to reach the Sea of ​​Azov coast.

“The objective of the militants [de las Fuerzas Armadas de Ucrania] is to reach the Sea of ​​Azov coast and cut off the land corridor,” Vladimir Rogov was quoted by Russian state media RIA Novosti as saying.

He claimed that Ukrainian troops had increased the intensity of their bombardment and fired Storm Shadow missiles. “They are being dropped in large numbers, which means Ukrainian militants and terrorists have enough ammunition.”

Rogov said he did not believe a full-scale counteroffensive had begun.

donetsk offensive in ukraine

Ukrainian soldiers prepare to open fire on Russian positions near the town of Avdiivka in Donetsk on June 2, 2023. Credit: Muhammed Enes/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

“Offensive action”

In a message posted on Telegram on Monday, Maliar said the country’s troops were “carrying out offensive actions” on the eastern front and had “advanced in various directions” around the city of Bakhmut: near the Orikhovo-Vasylivka and the Paraskoviivka in the north, and near Ivanivske and Klishchiivka in the southwest.

Serhii Cherevatyi, spokesman for the Eastern Group of Ukrainian Armed Forces, also spoke on national television on Monday of “an offensive assault” by the Ukrainians “on the southern and northern flanks of Bakhmut”.

“These actions were successful,” Cherevatyi said. “Despite fierce enemy resistance, our mechanized and air assault units managed to advance along the Siverskyi Donets-Donbas canal in the direction of Klishchiivka, Orikhovo-Vasylivka, Zaliznianske and Bohdanivka to a distance of 300 meters 1 km in various parts of the front line”.

CNN cannot verify battlefield reports.

It comes after Maliar and other officials posted a video on social media calling for silence on any possible news of a counteroffensive.

In the video, several soldiers fully geared up for combat are seen putting a finger to their lips and saying “shh” followed by the text: “Plans love silence. The start will not be announced. [de la contraofensiva]”.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky praised the troops fighting around the besieged city of Bakhmut during his evening speech, saying: “I thank all the warriors, all our defenders, who have given us the news we have been waiting for. all in the direction of Bakhmut. Cheer. , warriors.”

A few days earlier, Zelensky had told the Wall Street Journal that kyiv was “ready” to launch the long-awaited military exercises.

“I think from today we are ready to do it. We would like to have some things, but we can’t wait for months,” Zelensky said in an exclusive video interview released on Saturday.

The president said he believed the counteroffensive would be successful, but did not know how long it would take.

“Everyone knows perfectly well that any counter-offensive in the world without control in the sky is very dangerous. Imagine what it feels like to be a military man who knows that he has no “ceiling” and cannot understand how countries neighbors have it,” Zelensky said of his tenacity. campaign for the allies to supply Ukraine with F-16 fighter jets.

According to the newspaper, Zelensky acknowledged Russia’s superiority in the skies, adding that the lack of protection against Moscow’s air power means “large numbers of soldiers will die” in the counteroffensive.

“If everyone knows we need protection from our skies, then what’s the deal with [darnos] modern jets? What’s the problem?” he asked.

Ukraine’s leader has been courting his Western allies for months to supply Kiev with fighter jets and weapons to help control the skies and limit the number of casualties from Ukrainian planes in a possible counter-offensive.

Earlier this week, Jake Sullivan, national security adviser to US President Joe Biden, said Washington believed the counteroffensive would help Kiev retake “strategically important territory”.

“Exactly to what extent, in what places, will depend on developments on the ground when the Ukrainians launch this counteroffensive,” Sullivan told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria. “But we think the Ukrainians will be successful in this counter-offensive.”

— Yulia Kesaieva, Allegra Goodwin, Joshua Berlinger and Maria Kostenko contributed reporting.

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