Ukraine says ‘particularly fruitful’ few days in counteroffensive

Officials acknowledge stiff resistance from Russian forces as they make incremental advances in east and south.

A Ukrainian soldier sitting in a recently taken Russian trench near Bakhmut. There is lots of dark mud and broken trees around.
Ukrainian soldiers have made some advances near Bakhmut [Libkos/AP Photo]

A Ukrainian counteroffensive against Russian forces has been “particularly fruitful” in recent days, according to a senior security official.

The comments by Oleksiy Danilov, who heads Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, were Kyiv’s latest positive assessment of the month-old counterattack, although Moscow has not acknowledged advances by Ukraine.

Ukraine’s Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Maliar also reported gains around the ruined eastern city of Bakhmut amid fierce Russian resistance. Russian forces captured the city in May after 10 months of fighting.

“At this stage of active hostilities, Ukraine’s Defense Forces are fulfilling the number one task – the maximum destruction of manpower, equipment, fuel depots, military vehicles, command posts, artillery and air defense forces of the Russian army,” Danilov wrote on Twitter.

“The last few days have been particularly fruitful,” he said, without providing any details from the battlefield.

The Ukrainians are in the early stages of their campaign to take back land occupied by the Russians since they launched their full-scale invasion in February 2022, and are up against minefields, anti-tank ditches and other obstacles, as well as layered defensive lines reportedly up to 20 kilometres (12 miles) deep in some places.

In its latest assessment, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), a Washington, DC-based think tank, said Danilov’s comments appeared to underline an “ongoing campaign to attrit Russian manpower and assets over attempting to conduct massive sweeping mechanized maneuvers to regain large swaths of territory rapidly”.

Earlier, Maliar said on July 3 Ukraine had liberated about 37.4sq km (14.4sq miles) of territory in eastern and southern Ukraine over the previous week.

“The current pace of Ukrainian operations is not indicative of a stalemate or evidence that Ukraine cannot retake large areas,” ISW said.

Gains were reported in the south where Valeriy Shershen, spokesperson for the Tavria, or southern military command, said Ukrainian troops had advanced by up to 2km (1.2 miles) in the Berdyansk direction against fierce Russian resistance.

In the areas outside Bakhmut, Maliar said, troops had pushed forward in the south but there was no progress in the city’s north where fighting was intense.

“… Our forces are encountering serious resistance,” she told national television. “The enemy is pouring in all its forces to stop in the south and in the east.”

Russian forces, she said, were also making advances further north, near Lyman and in Svatove, where Russian troops have recently been particularly active.

In Makiivka, a town in the Russian-controlled part of the eastern Donetsk region, Ukraine’s military had destroyed a formation of Russian forces. Russia-installed officials said one civilian died and 36 others were injured in the attack.

Russia’s defence ministry spokesperson Lieutenant General Igor Konashenkov, meanwhile, said Russian troops repelled 10 Ukrainian attacks in the direction of Donetsk in the previous 24 hours, according to state news agency TASS. He said dozens of Ukrainian soldiers were injured or killed and key equipment including HIMARS systems destroyed.

Russia also claimed to have repelled attacks near Lyman and disrupted Ukrainian operations in the Zaporizhia region, where Ukraine says its forces have captured a cluster of villages.

Each side has said the other is suffering heavy losses, and it is not possible to verify the front-line accounts.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies