The capture of Bakhmut a week ago by Russia closes one stage and symbolically opens another. The fall of the besieged city during almost 10 months on the eastern front, which one day breathed through its 70,000 inhabitants, put an end to the Russian offensive and gave way to the Ukrainian counteroffensive. A moment announced since the end of February that, just before entering June, it’s here.
The high expectations for the counteroffensivegenerated by hype and cymbal by the Government of Volodímir Zelenski, reached their zenith at the G7 summit held in Hiroshima last weekend: US approves shipment of F-16 fighters to Ukraine. This, together with the Leopard 2 main battle tanks obtained in the first quarter, represents a military and diplomatic turn to war.
The last necessary step before finally starting the counteroffensive. With the Leopard 2, the replacement of ammunition, weapons and military equipment, and waiting for the F-16, the Bakhmut front has allowed Ukraine to wear down his enemy on a front of little strategic importance just long enough to organize this entire counterattack operation that, yes, it can be said that it has already begun.
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On Thursday, Zelensky’s adviser, Mykhailo Podolyak, responded on Twitter to some questions about the counteroffensive. In the first place, “it is not a ‘single event’ that will start at a specific time on a specific daywith a solemn cutting of a red ribbon,” he said.
Many people expected a historic, deadly attack that would go down in the annals of war history from the very moment of its execution. However, the Ukrainian Foreign Minister, Dmitri Kuleba, has already warned that this is something that would only exist in film scripts: “Do not consider this counteroffensive the last, because we do not know what will come of it.“.
The counteroffensive, Podolyak continued, will consist of “dozens of different actions to destroy the Russian occupation forces in different directions, which have already taken place yesterday, are taking place today and will continue tomorrow“. Paradoxically, with these statements, Podolyak cut the “solemn red tape”. Although there were already enough clues to deduce that the counteroffensive is taking place.
On Monday morning, the news broke, supported by images and accounts from pro-Russian accounts on Telegram, of the crossing of the border between Russia and Ukraine by the post of Graivoron, in the Russian province of Belgorod, from “Ukrainian saboteurs” that led Putin to activate the “anti-terrorist alarm”.
Although the attack was claimed by anti-Putin Russian citizens belonging to the Volunteer Corps and the group known as Free Russian Legionthese saboteurs entered from Ukraine.
Since then, Russia has notified repeated attacks on the southern border with Ukraine. The last one, this Friday, in the regions of Rostov and Krasnodarwhere explosions were recorded at night after a drone and missile attack, according to local authorities.
“The air defense system was activated in the Morozovsk area and shot down a Ukrainian missile. The military is doing its job. Keep calm“Wrote Rostov Governor Vasily Golubev on his Telegram channel.
In neighboring Krasnodar, near the Kerch Strait and thus the annexed Ukrainian peninsula of Crimeathere was another explosion in the center of the city, where two buildings, one office and one residential, were damaged, according to the mayor, Yevgeny Naúmov.
These attacks correspond to what Podolyak called “intensive destruction of enemy logistics,” which, for Zelensky’s adviser, “it is also a sign of counteroffensive“.
However, and above all, these incursions on the Russian border, whether perpetrated by Ukrainian soldiers or pro-Kievan Russian saboteurs penetrating from the Ukraine, they have the objective of forcing Russia to mobilize its troops to different areas.
In other words, a Ukrainian strategy for this counteroffensive consists of generating a division in the Russian Army because its forces have to move to points of little importance to respond to smaller assaults. But not only that: also undermine psychology and resupply ability russian.
The climate change
This Friday there was another apparently insignificant change, but enlightening in terms of confirmation that the Ukrainian Army has gone on the offensive. Soldiers in the region Zaporizhia -one of the occupied ones where Ukraine will seek to recover enclaves as important as Melitopol– They operated with summer uniforms, soft drinks and ice cream, as can be seen in an image from the ‘Washington Post’.
The temperatures, in fact, They have risen this week to 25ºC. Spring has taken as long to arrive in Ukraine as the counter-offensive, in a correlation that makes no sense: from the outset, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense warned that the first era essential condition for the second to be fulfilled.
Until now, a succession of unusually rainy months had left the muddy, sticky battlefieldIn short, not suitable for heavy vehicles such as those sent by the Western Allies. “This year there was a huge water level during the spring“lamented Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov.
But the good weather has arrived and with it the drought, cOptimal conditions for Zelensky to demonstrate to his partners that the effort has not been in vain, that they are going to recover the lost ground. Besides, warm weather provides other advantages, such as better tree cover for troops and vehicles, and more daylight hours.
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The advance towards the south, an eminently agricultural area where the harvest fields are in their apogee, throws a ideal scenario for Ukraine to try to break the ‘land bridge’ created between mainland Russia and the annexed peninsula of Crimea. Prior to the attacks, Ukraine will need to cut Russian supply and logistics lines, and He is now in that phase of the counteroffensive.
Meanwhile, Zelensky seems not to have much interest in the counter-offensive going too fast. Russia’s takeover of Bakhmut has been responded to with a scrawny attempt to get her back, attacking the flanks. But the war is no longer there and Russia knows it: in fact, the Wagner Group undertook the withdrawal on Thursday until June 1 to be relieved by regular Army troops.
The colonel of the Ukrainian Special Forces, Roman Kostenko, explained in ‘The Guardian’ that we are entering a stage where “Ukraine is unlikely to embark on a major frontal offensive“Instead, it will attack logistics targets and, as Minister Kuleba said, they will continue to wait.”weapons, weapons and more weaponswhich is what it takes to win a war.”
This, for those who expected an unappealable Ukrainian response, may disappoint in the style of ‘much ado About Nothing‘. However, the counteroffensive will continue to develop silently, in the image and likeness of how it was orchestrated while the focus was on Bakhmut: to simmer. The big battle that the West is expecting may not come for a few months, when Ukrainian troops may make a lightning advance like the one they already did last fall in Kharkov.