Ukraine war

Ukraine attacks the front line; Russia says significant losses inflicted

Ukrainian soldiers prepare to fire a rocket-propelled grenade at Russian positions at the front line near Bakhmut in the Donetsk region of Ukraine on Monday, May 22, 2023. (Photo: AP/Libkos/File)

During the 68th week of Russia's invasion, Ukraine claims to have recaptured approximately 100 square kilometers (40 square miles) of its territory as a long-planned counterattack acquires momentum.

However, Russian President Vladimir Putin stated that Ukraine had suffered "catastrophic" losses and that Kyiv had suffered ten times more casualties than Moscow.

Putin stated, "All counteroffensive attempts to date have failed, but the offensive potential of the regime's troops remains intact."

According to Demetries Andrew Grimes, a former commander who spent two years from 2015 to 2017 retraining the Ukrainian military, the counteroffensive is still in its infancy.

"All we're seeing right now is a softening of the [Russian] front lines through harassment fire with everything from small arms and rockets to drones and artillery," said Grimes to Al Jazeera.

"The objective is to weaken the opposition by elongating their forces... They are extending the conflict zone and compelling the Russians to expose their supply lines, allowing Ukrainian forces to encircle smaller groups.

Along most of the 1,200km (745-mile) front, Ukraine intensified its assaults. The Russian Defense Ministry reported on June 9 that it had repelled four Ukrainian ground attacks in the Kreminna region of eastern Donetsk.

Serhiy Cherevatyi, the spokesman for the eastern forces, reported that Ukrainian forces advanced around Bakhmut by 1,200 meters (3,940 feet) on June 9 and 1,400 meters (4,600 feet) on June 10. Russian military sources validated these advances.

On June 9, Ukrainian forces opened a new front where Donetsk meets the Zaporizhia region.

Two days later, the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War (ISW) reported that Ukrainian forces had liberated multiple localities near Velyka Novosilka, in western Donetsk Oblast, based on geolocated footage and Russian sources.

According to Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar, Ukraine gained 90 square kilometers (35 square miles) of territory here.

A bold offensive

Perhaps the most audacious counteroffensive assault occurred in western Zaporizhia, south of Orikhiv, where it was known that Russian lines were heavily defended.

Overnight on June 8, according to Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, a force of 1,500 Ukrainian soldiers and 150 armored vehicles attempted to burst through Russian lines.

"Artillery, aviation, and anti-tank munitions delivered a preemptive strike. According to the Russian Ministry of Defense, the adversary was halted in all four directions, which reported Ukrainian losses of 30 tanks and 350 soldiers.

According to Russian military reporters, there was a "high-intensity battle" in which "enemy artillery and tanks fired continuously."

According to the correspondents, the Ukrainian offensive had initial success. "At 5 a.m., the second wave gave the enemy a small victory; they occupied one height," said one.

"Our soldiers of the heroic company of the 291st regiment withdrew from the front line of trenches to reserve positions under heavy pressure," they reported. "The enemy continuously attacked these trenches 3 hours before the offensive with all types of weapons," but "the 291st regiment repelled all enemy attacks and returned to ALL positions."

According to Russian military correspondents, Russian forces launched their counteroffensive on June 12.

The Ukraine's general staff reported 1,000 Russian deaths on June 8 and 900 Russian deaths on June 10.

Transitioning to regular warfare

Ukraine has garnered media attention throughout the conflict for deftly destroying thousands of Russian heavy vehicles. The Orikhiv offensive received unusually negative press, and a subsidiary investigation south of Mala Tokmachka also performed poorly.

Thomas Theiner, a defense correspondent, noted that the Mala Tokmachka column lacked air support and was susceptible to detection. "At least three Russian drones and one helicopter flew above the Ukrainians and walked Russian artillery in," he wrote on Twitter.

Grimes stated that these are the lessons of a military relearning to fight conventional mechanized warfare after using guerrilla tactics successfully for many years.

After Russia invaded the Donbas and annexation of Crimea in 2014, "Ukrainians realized they may not have the resources necessary to rebuild their army, navy, and air force, and began immediately building their special operations capabilities, counterinsurgency capabilities, and training a resistance," stated Grimes.

The navy essentially became a marine and coastal defense force, while their army and other forces transitioned to special and asymmetrical operations.

In addition to these operations, Ukraine's NATO allies provided over 250 tanks and thousands of armored vehicles and retrained nine brigades for protracted battles.

"When you transition into conventional warfare, you lose some of that asymmetrical advantage," explained Grimes. "Due to the capabilities of larger military hardware, you are obligated to deploy forces to defend these assets. It reduces your flexibility," he said.

According to the Institute for the Study of War, "Ukraine's counteroffensive will presumably consist of numerous undertakings... The smaller initiatives do not represent Ukrainian numbers' maximum capacity or effectiveness."

According to the ISW, Ukraine had prepared twelve offensive brigades and committed "only a portion of the large reserve forces available" to western Zaporizhia.

Russia benefits from breached dam

Kherson, flooded after the Nova Kakhovska dam collapsed on June 6, was the only region where Ukraine did not commence an offensive.

The environment ministry of Ukraine reported that more than 14 cubic kilometers of water, or nearly three-quarters of the Nova Kakhovska dam's reservoir, had escaped, flooding 600 square kilometers of Kherson.

Russia and Ukraine have each accused the other of blowing up the dam, so it is still unclear which side targeted it.

‘Battles are fierce’

Oleksandr Pavlyuk, deputy defense minister of Ukraine, stated that it was a defensive strategy.

"I believe the adversary desired to secure their left flank. "By destroying the dam, they established a barrier line and thwarted our offensive from this side," he explained.

Grimes stated that Russian forces learned the tactic from the Ukrainian forces defending Kyiv in the opening weeks of the conflict.

"The Ukrainians on the outskirts of Kyiv flooded several fields with water to force the Russians' heavy armor and trucks to operate on higher, more solid ground, allowing them to target them more effectively," he explained.

Natalia Humenyuk, a spokesperson for Ukraine's southern forces, stated that inundation forced Russian forces to withdraw 5 km to 15 km (3 to 9 miles) from their forward positions, leaving behind equipment. As a consequence, Russian shelling had decreased by nearly half.

Flooding led to the destruction of minefields and the discovery of explosives in the Black Sea.

In addition, Russian forces abandoned the Dnipro Delta.

Despite the setback in Kherson, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy expressed satisfaction with the advancements in other regions.

"The conflicts are fierce, but we are making progress, which is vital. "The enemy's losses are precisely what we require," Zelenskyy said in a video address.

Publish : 2023-06-15 10:53:00

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