Ukraine’s ground perspective on counter-offensive

As Ukraine’s counter-offensive surpasses one week, Kyiv reports modest gains in its struggle to reclaim territory from entrenched Russian forces.

Eight settlements have been liberated in cautious initial moves, marking the beginning of a challenging fight against Russian strongholds.

Although the extent of Ukraine’s progress remains uncertain, its ally, Britain, acknowledges that both sides are enduring significant casualties. It is also noted that Russian forces exhibit effective defensive operations.

Experts warn that the involvement of NATO-trained and Western-armed brigades has not been fully committed to the conflict yet. Some early assaults are strategically aimed at identifying weaknesses in the Russian lines.

AFP journalists have recently visited Ukrainian positions along the front, spanning from forested hills in the eastern Lugansk region through Donetsk to Orikhiv, located 230 kilometers (140 miles) to the west. These observations provide insights into the Ukrainian forces’ advancement and the associated costs.

First Breakthrough

Most of the liberated settlements, according to Ukraine, lie in the wooded and marshy valley south of Velyka Novosilka in the Donetsk region. Soldiers from the 68th Jaeger (“Hunter”) brigade recount encountering unexpectedly fierce resistance from Russian forces in the village of Blagodatne. Russian soldiers’ corpses lay where they fell, and the sound of artillery fire filled the air.

One Ukrainian soldier, known as “Zahar,” claims that professional Russian units were reinforced by prisoners recruited to fight. “Commanders were from the regular army, and a lot of convicts,” he alleges. Combat medic Vinni adds that it took two days to clear the area due to the numerous dugouts and passages, making it challenging to dislodge the enemy.

The deputy commander of the brigade, referred to as “Lermontov,” reveals that the broader objective is to capture the nearby Russian stronghold of Donetsk.

Early Setback

On June 8, while Ukraine hesitated to confirm the new operation, Russia announced that it repelled an armored column near the front line south of Orikhiv. Russian drone footage appeared to show damaged German-built Leopard mine-clearing tanks and US-made Bradley fighting vehicles.

Ukrainian soldiers from the 47th Brigade, taking a break at a cafe, confirmed that their motorized infantry company had lost most of its Bradleys. However, they insisted that some were recoverable, and the brigade remained determined to continue the fight. One infantryman disclosed, “In our unit, six out of ten Bradleys were wrecked, and three damaged.”

An officer added that human casualties were lower than anticipated due to the resilient armor of the disabled Bradleys.

Subsequent Operations

Since then, Ukraine has launched new attacks on the western and southern fronts. Deputy Defense Minister Ganna Malyar announced the liberation of the village of Pyatykhatky on Monday.

Bakhmut Battle

The ongoing battle for the eastern city of Bakhmut has become the longest and deadliest of the war thus far. Russian forces captured the city in May after months of intense fighting. Ukrainian assault infantry, supported by German artillery, swiftly began pushing Russian troops away from the city’s flanks.

A soldier known as “Quiet” revealed that Russian forces were most active at night, evidenced by the sounds of their equipment and voices carrying over. A commanding officer acknowledged that Russian drones and gliding bombs, dropped beyond the reach of Ukrainian air defenses, were taking a toll. Nonetheless, he claimed that progress was being made gradually.

The Next Operation?

While Ukraine has not officially declared an operation in the eastern Lugansk region, rumors have reached the Russians. Infantry from the 100th Territorial Defense Brigade, enlisted last year near the Belarus border in western Ukraine, are stationed in forest.

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