Russia says large Ukrainian attack in Donetsk thwarted amid counteroffensive threat

Russian rockets are launched against Ukraine from Russia's Belgorod region, seen from Kharkiv, Ukraine, late Sunday, June 4, 2023. (Photo: AP/Vadim Belikov)

It was unclear whether this marked the beginning of a Ukrainian counteroffensive when Russia's Defense Ministry announced early Monday morning that its forces had repelled a large Ukrainian offensive in the eastern province of Donetsk.

In a rare early-morning video, the ministry announced that its forces had repelled a "large-scale" Ukrainian offensive at five points in southern Donetsk, one of four Ukrainian regions Russia unlawfully annexed in the fall.

Igor Konashenkov, a spokesman for the ministry, stated, "The enemy's objective was to breach our defenses in the sector of the front it deemed most vulnerable." "The adversary did not accomplish its objectives. It was unsuccessful."

250 Ukrainian soldiers were slain, and 16 tanks, three infantry fighting vehicles, and 21 armored combat vehicles were destroyed, according to Konashenkov.

Ukraine did not comment and typically delays until the conclusion of its military operations before confirming its actions while imposing news blackouts in the interim. It was unclear why the Russian Defense Ministry waited until Monday morning to disclose the attack, which began on Sunday morning, according to the ministry.

Ukrainian officials have been speaking for months about plans to initiate a spring counteroffensive to reclaim territory Russia has occupied since its invasion on February 24, 2022, and the Crimean Peninsula, which it seized in 2014. However, they have sent mixed signals regarding a counteroffensive: initial, limited attacks to undermine Russian forces and military facilities or a full-scale simultaneous assault across the entire 1,100-kilometer (680-mile) front line. The timing of the counteroffensive was influenced by at least two factors: the improvement of terrain conditions for troop and equipment movement following the winter and the deployment of more advanced Western weapons and the training of Ukrainian troops to use them.

The Russian Ministry of Defense spokesman stated that Ukraine employed six mechanized and two tank battalions in the attack, and a video purporting to show the destruction of some of the equipment in a field was disseminated.

General Valery Gerasimov, chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, "was at one of the forward command posts," the spokesman said, in a rare specific reference to the presence of Russia's senior military leaders on the battlefield.

The announcement of Gerasimov's direct involvement could be a response to criticism from some Russian military bloggers and the leader of a mercenary group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, that Russia's military leadership has not been sufficiently visible at the front or has not assumed sufficient control or responsibility for its military operations in Ukraine.

Ukrainian authorities reported on Sunday that a Ukrainian man rushed to his home outside the central city of Dnipro in hopes of rescuing his family, only to find his 2-year-old daughter dead and his wife gravely injured as he helped pull them from the rubble of their apartment destroyed by one of Russia's most recent airstrikes of the conflict.

After the corpse of Liza was recovered, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky wrote on Telegram that at least 500 Ukrainian children had been killed in the conflict. According to the United Nations, approximately 1,000 additional Ukrainian minors have been injured, and thousands more have been forcibly deported to Russia.

Zelensky stated, "Russian weapons and hatred continue to take and destroy the lives of Ukrainian children every day," adding that "many of them could have contributed to Ukraine's history by becoming renowned scholars, artists, and sports champions."

"We must hold out and win this war!" he proclaimed. "Entire Ukraine, our people, and our children must be liberated from Russian terror!"

The regional governor of Dnipropetrovsk, Serhiy Lysak, stated that Liza was slain when a Russian missile landed in a yard adjacent to her apartment complex while she and her mother were at home. The father of the daughter hurried home from work.

"The father was on duty, and according to what I was told, he cleared the debris and rescued his wife and daughter. Imagine the magnitude of this calamity, said Iryna Vereshchuk, deputy prime minister of Ukraine, as she reported on the rescue operation that lasted until early Sunday morning. The mother of the daughter was hospitalized and receiving intensive care.

Five children were among the 25 people injured in Saturday's attack, which damaged two residential structures, according to Zelenskyy.

The mother of one of the children described what transpired as she sat among fractured concrete, twisted metal, children's toys, and clothing near her apartment building.

Alyona Serednyak recalled, "I was running from the electrical station across the traffic." "I was rushing to get home. My infant was at home by himself. We attempted to remove my child from the window confinement.

She reported that they were able to liberate him and hospitalize him.

On Sunday, Russian drones and cruise missiles targeted multiple areas of the country, including the capital, Kyiv.

According to updated data from the Ukrainian air force, air defenses shot down six of eight Shahed self-exploding drones and four of six cruise missiles.

According to Ukrainian air force spokesman Yurii Ihnat, two missiles attacked a military air base in Kropyvnytskyi, Kyrovohrad province, central Ukraine. He didn't report the damage.

In assaults on Ukrainian airfields, the Russian military reportedly destroyed Ukrainian warplanes and ammunition depots but did not provide further details.

In recent days, the Russian military has attacked Ukrainian air defense batteries, air bases, troop and ammo depots, military production factories, and battlefield positions. While Ukrainian officials have refrained from announcing the commencement of their much-anticipated counteroffensive to reclaim more Russian-occupied territory, the rate of military activity suggests that the operation may have begun.

In the eastern city of Bakhmut, which Moscow claimed control of last month after the war's longest and bloodiest combat, Ukrainian forces kept the pressure on Russian forces.

Elsewhere, Russians fighting alongside Ukrainian forces announced they had launched new attacks against the Russian frontier region of Belgorod. The Russian Volunteer Corps, one of the groups, released videos on Sunday depicting an alleged raid and proposing to exchange prisoners with Russian authorities. The Associated Press was unable to confirm the authenticity of the videos independently.

Belgorod Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov responded to the prisoner exchange proposal with his video, expressing skepticism that the captives are still alive but expressing willingness to meet to negotiate a swap. Later, the Russian Volunteer Corps stated in a video that there had been no meeting and that the Russian prisoners would be handed over to Ukrainian forces, who have sporadically exchanged prisoners with Russia in one of the few areas of cooperation.

Sunday, Gladkov reported additional Ukrainian bombardment of the Shebekino border district and surrounding areas. He said at least two fatalities and multiple injuries on Saturday. The Russian Defense Ministry reported that the country's forces repelled an incursion attempt in Novaya Tavolzhanka.

Some observers view the attacks in Belgorod, which prompted the evacuation of thousands of residents by Russian authorities, as part of Ukraine's strategy to divert Moscow's attention and strain its forces to aid in the success of the counteroffensive.

On Sunday morning, regional leader Sergei Aksenov in Crimea reported a Ukrainian drone attack on Dzhankoi. He stated that five assaulting drones were shot down, and four others were jammed and forced to land, adding that no casualties were reported.

Publish : 2023-06-05 10:30:00

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