Ukrainian troops, on the defensive for four months, will launch a long-awaited counterattack “very soon” after Russia’s massive winter offensive slows without taking Bakhmut. Ukraine said the supreme commander of the ground forces on Thursday.
Colonel-General Oleksandr Syrskyi’s comments were the strongest indication yet from Kyiv that it is on the verge of changing tactics after it was taken over of Russia Rush through a brutal winter.
Russia’s Wagnerian mercenaries trying to capture Bakhmut in the longest and bloodiest battle of the war are “losing considerable strength and are out of strength,” Syrskyi said on Telegram’s social media page.
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“Very soon we will seize this opportunity, as we have done in the past near Kiev, Kharkiv, Balakliya and Kupyansk,” he said, listing Ukrainian counter-offensives over the past year that proved to be turning points in the war and reclaimed tracts of land.
Syrskyi was one of the top commanders behind Ukraine’s strategy last year that repelled the Russian attack on Kiev and pushed Moscow’s forces back into the second half of 2022.
But the front lines in Ukraine have largely frozen since Ukraine’s last major offensive in November. Since then, Moscow has sent hundreds of thousands of newly drafted reservists and prison convicts into what both sides call a meat grinder.
War in Ukraine: residents flee Bakhmut as Russia approaches
The Russian campaign has met with few successes and Ukraine, which would likely withdraw from the small town of Bakhmut to the east, decided this month to keep its troops there, denying Moscow its first victory since last August.
Kiev has long announced plans for a major counter-offensive using newly supplied Western weapons sometime this year. Several of its most successful offensives over the past year followed quickly after Russia exhausted its forces in huge battles in the east.
Moscow did not immediately respond to recent claims that its forces in Bakhmut were losing momentum, but Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the Wagner mercenaries, has issued pessimistic statements in recent days warning of a Ukrainian counterattack.
On Monday, Prigozhin published a letter to Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, saying Ukraine wants to cut off Wagner’s forces from regular Russian troops, calling for Shoigu’s action to prevent this and warning of “negative consequences” if he fails .
On Wednesday, Britain’s Defense Ministry reported that Ukraine had launched a local counterattack west of Bakhmut that would likely ease pressure on the main route used to supply Kiev’s forces within the city.
There is still a risk that Ukrainian troops could be surrounded in Bakhmut, it said, but there is “a realistic possibility that the Russian attack on the city will lose the limited momentum it had been given.”
RUSSIA attacks as XI flies off
This week, President Vladimir Putin made his biggest diplomatic gesture since the war began a year ago when he hosted Chinese President Xi Jinping on a three-day state visit to Moscow. The two leaders pledged friendship and jointly condemned the West, but Xi made little public mention of the Ukraine war.
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On Wednesday, the day Xi left, Moscow sent a swarm of drones to conduct airstrikes over northern Ukraine and rockets hit two apartment blocks in Zaporizhia to the south.
The death toll rose to nine on Thursday from one of those attacks, a residential home that hit in a riverside town south of Kiev.
Russians see minimal gains in Bakhmut
Russia invaded Ukraine in February last year in what it called a “special military operation,” claiming Kiev’s close ties to the West are a security threat. Since then, tens of thousands of Ukrainian civilians and soldiers have been killed on both sides. Russia has destroyed Ukrainian cities and forced millions to flee. It claims to have annexed almost a fifth of Ukraine.
Kiev and the West are calling the war an unprovoked attack to subdue an independent country.
Last week, the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Putin on war crimes charges, accusing him of illegally deporting Ukrainian children. Moscow denies this and says it took in children to protect them.
Dmitry Medvedev, a Putin ally who served as president for four years when Putin took over as prime minister, said Putin’s arrest would amount to a declaration of war on Russia.