The "biggest blow" in Kyiv's counteroffensive campaign against Russian forces, according to Ukraine's deputy defense minister Hanna Maliar, has yet to be delivered, but she acknowledged the operation is challenging because Moscow is doing everything it can to stop Ukraine from moving forward.
Two weeks ago, Ukraine started the first phase of its long-rumored counteroffensive to retake territory held by Russian forces. Moscow officials, however, have asserted that the Ukrainian offensive has failed despite reports of slow advancement by the Ukrainian forces and resolute Russian resistance.
The Ukrainian military, which has remained utterly silent about the campaign as a whole, declared on Monday that eight villages had already been freed, along with 113 square kilometers (70 square miles) of land.
Maliar declared on Monday that "the biggest blow is yet to come."
The military is completing these tasks as part of the ongoing operation, she wrote on the Telegram messaging platform.
We need to get ready for a tough fight because the enemy won't give up their positions easily, she said. In actuality, that is what is taking place right now.
Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia, stated late last week that the Ukrainian counteroffensive had not achieved any notable success. However, some Russian military bloggers claim that despite significant troop and equipment losses, Kyiv has only made modest gains.
The Reuters news agency was able to confirm that Ukrainian forces have advanced in the early stages of the counteroffensive, even though it is impossible to independently verify the military operation along the most contentious points of the front line.
According to sources cited by the Washington, DC-based Institute for the Study of War (ISW), Ukrainian forces may be temporarily pausing counteroffensive operations to "reevaluate their tactics for future operations."
ISW emphasized once more that the primary counteroffensive campaign had not yet begun.
ISW stated in its daily situational analysis that Ukraine has not yet launched its main effort and has not yet committed the majority of its available forces to counteroffensive operations.
"Operational pauses are a common feature of major offensive undertakings, and this pause does not signify the end of Ukraine's counteroffensive," the statement read.
President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy referred to the military offensive as a "situation of pressure" in his nightly video address, but noted that Ukrainian forces had maintained their focus on Russian forces despite the pressure.
Zelenskyy said, "In some places, our warriors are advancing; in other places, they are defending their positions and fending off the occupiers' assaults and stepped-up attacks.
"There are no lost positions for us. only the liberated. They only have losses, he declared.
Moscow is reportedly redeploying some of its forces as it tries to anticipate where Ukraine will strike, according to officials from two NATO members.
Russian forces were reportedly moving east along the front line from areas south of the Dnipro River that had been flooded by the massive Kakhovka hydroelectric dam's June 6 collapse, according to Estonian and British intelligence officials.
Overall, according to the Ukrainian military, its counteroffensive is proceeding as planned, but it also acknowledged a "difficult situation" on the front.
In the south of the nation, Ukrainian Commander-in-Chief Valerii Zaluzhnyi posted on Telegram on Monday that fortifications, dense minefields, and a "large number of reserves" were impeding the Ukrainian advance, but that the operation would still proceed as planned.
He was also seen in a video at a command post close to the front with Chief of General Staff Serhiy Shaptala. This was probably Zaluzhnyi's way of dispelling rumors that had been making the rounds in Russian state media, which had claimed time and time again that he had been seriously hurt in a missile attack in May.