During the 61st week of the conflict, Ukrainian forces have advanced on a poorly defended portion of the riverine coast of Kherson, the southern region bisected by the Dnipro River.
Last year, Ukraine recaptured a significant portion of the region, including the capital city, also named Kherson, from invading Russian forces, but the Russians dug in on the left bank of the river.
The Institute for the Study of War (ISW), a Washington-based think tank, reported that geolocated footage published by a Russian military correspondent on April 22 revealed that Ukrainian forces had established positions 7 kilometers (4.3 miles) southwest Kherson city, north of Oleshky.
"The enemy is indeed conducting attacks on the left bank using small boats supplied by the United States as part of their military assistance," a Russian military reporter named Rybar wrote online. Large stretches of coastline and the inability to physically control coastal areas due to regular bombardment work in favor of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.
Another Russian journalist reported on April 20 that Ukrainian forces had fortified their positions "on our shore" near the destroyed Antonivskyi Bridge.
The reporter wrote on Telegram, "Thanks to our stupidity, the enemies have established a stable supply, are accumulating strength, evacuating the wounded, and bringing provisions and ammunition."
Another report stated that Ukrainian forces commanded some of the nearby Dnipro Delta's islands.
The ISW wrote, "The Russian grouping in Kherson Oblast is likely the most disorganized and undermanned in the entire theater."
"It is highly likely that the remaining grouping on the east bank consists primarily of severely depleted remnants of predominantly mobilized units," the report stated.
According to leaked US military documents reported by the New York Times, 12 Ukrainian combat brigades totaling 4,000 soldiers are anticipated to be ready to move to the front line by the end of April, with the US and NATO training and supplying nine of them.
Fear in Russia
There were also indications that the drone attacks on Russian territory, believed to have been launched by Ukraine despite its denial, had a psychological impact.
On April 22, approximately 3,000 people were evacuated from the Russian city of Belgorod due to an explosives threat.
Two days prior, a large bomb detonated in the city's streets, creating a 20-meter-wide crater. The Russian defense ministry reported that one of its aircraft had released a 500-kilogram (1,100-pound) bomb en route to Ukraine, raising questions about whether the optimal flight path had been selected.
By providing GPS coordinates and satellite guidance to Ukrainian drones, Russia accused the United States of directly aiding Ukraine's attack on Dyagilevo and Engels, two airfields deep within Russian territory, in December of 2016.
Ukraine has not officially claimed responsibility for the attacks, but on April 24, a Ukrainian drone was discovered in a forest 30 kilometers (19 miles) east of Moscow, highlighting Russia's vulnerability again. A second was discovered in February, 100 kilometers (62 miles) southeast of the capital.
According to the Russian Ministry of Defense, Russian troops advanced into western Bakhmut on April 21. According to Russian military correspondents, the Wagner mercenary group controlled 83 percent of the city.
The Washington Post reported that Russian forces were demolishing entire buildings with converted gliding bombs to drive back Ukrainian resistance, a strategy that had little resistance.
"They are simply blowing up nine-story buildings," a Ukrainian soldier told the newspaper. According to him, a powerful aerial bomb was detonated on the four-story buildings adjacent to ours, destroying them completely.
The Russian military has been steadily advancing through the city for months. The ISW reported that Wagner could capture the city "at some point."
Oleksandr Syrskyi, the commander of Ukraine's ground forces, stated that Ukrainian units were defending and counterattacking Russian forces in the city.
"This gives us the opportunity to contain the enemy's offensive for several months, not expand the front in this direction, destroy his best units, and buy time," he said.
"The Ukrainian armed forces continue to execute admirably... Mark Milley, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, stated that Russia expends much manpower for minimal gain.
"Russia continues to pay dearly for its self-inflicted war," he said, supporting Ukraine's controversial strategy of holding its ground in what has become an attrition battle in Bakhmut.
During the eleventh conference of the Allies' Contact Group in Ramstein, Germany, Ukraine received new assurances that it would receive weapons for its counteroffensive.
The United States has announced a $325 million reduction in armaments, such as HIMARS rockets, 155mm and 105mm artillery, and air defense munitions.
In addition to the 38 T-72 tanks it has sent to Ukraine, the Czech Republic announced it would modernize an additional 90 T-72 tanks. The duration was not specified. Denmark and the Netherlands pledge of 14 Leopard 2 tanks brings the total number of Western tanks promised to Ukraine since January to 266. According to public pronouncements, 71 have arrived on Ukrainian soil.
On April 21, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin cited significantly larger figures.
"In just a few short months, the Contact Group has delivered more than 230 tanks, over 1,550 armored vehicles, and other equipment and munitions to support over nine new armored brigades," he said.
It was unclear whether he included Soviet stockpiles donated by former Warsaw Pact nations and Western tanks.
Austin stated that M1 Abrams training tanks would arrive in Germany "in the next few weeks" so Ukrainian personnel could begin training on them. However, according to the Pentagon, the 31 battle tanks promised by the United States will not arrive in Ukraine until the year's final quarter.
Milley stated that nine mechanized brigades had been trained and equipped by allies.
These divisions are prepared for combat operations in terms of training, personnel, and equipment. Therefore, whenever and wherever Ukraine decides to use them, we will continue to provide support, and I am very confident in their success," Milley said.
However, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba implied that his country required more preparation time when he informed the European Union Foreign Affairs Council that weapons deliveries must be expedited. "Let's rip down every paper wall. "Let's eliminate all procedural roadblocks," he said.
Kuleba demanded additional armored vehicles, tanks, artillery, ammunition, air defense systems, and Western aircraft.
EU high commissioner Josep Borrell stated that the bloc is on the verge of finalizing a joint procurement program to expedite the delivery of artillery projectiles to Ukraine. The EU agreed on March 20 to dispatch one million artillery rounds to Ukraine over the next twelve months.
Early in April, legislation allowed EU members to be reimbursed from a 1 billion euro ($1.1bn) fund for stockpile reductions.
However, disagreements within the alliance slowed the passage of legislation on the acquisition of new rounds. Greece and Cyprus sought to prevent outsourcing to strengthen the Turkish armaments industry, while France insisted on keeping purchases within the EU.
The Ukrainian counteroffensive is greeted with optimism.
Kyryl Budanov, the head of Ukrainian military intelligence, stated that it could reach Ukraine's 1991 borders this year, implying that it could retake the industrial Donbas region and Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014.
"Crimea is part of Ukraine's territory, and the situation cannot be resolved without Crimea's return," he said.
The financier of Russia's Wagner mercenary group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, stated that the counteroffensive would provide "serious opposition."
The robust resistance and counterattacks of Ukraine have revitalized the NATO alliance. On April 23, during a surprise visit to Kyiv, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg announced that Ukraine would join NATO.
"Ukraine should be a member of NATO. And we will assist. We will make it possible with your help," he said, adding, "NATO has decided that Ukraine will join the alliance."