- Russia says it has foiled a major offensive in southern Ukraine
- Ukraine did not signal the start of a major counteroffensive
- He cites some ‘successes’ in offensive operations around Buckmutt
- Mercenary leader says Russia has landed near Pakmut
KYIV, June 5 (Reuters) – Moscow said on Monday it had repelled a major offensive against its forces in eastern Ukraine, but Ukrainian officials rejected the report and both sides said Kyiv’s army had made small gains elsewhere on the front line.
It’s unclear whether the attacks represent the start of Ukraine’s long-running counteroffensive against Russia’s invasion, and Ukrainian officials have made no mention of any broader, significant new campaign or sidestepping questions about the matter.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said on Sunday morning that Ukraine had launched an offensive with six mechanized and two tank battalions in southern Donetsk, where Moscow long suspects Ukraine is seeking to drive a wedge through Russian-controlled territory.
“On the morning of June 4, the enemy launched a large-scale offensive in five divisions in the direction of southern Donetsk,” the Defense Ministry said in a Telegram statement at 1:30 a.m. Moscow time (2230 GMT). .
“The enemy’s goal is to break through our defenses on the front lines, which are, in its opinion, the most vulnerable,” it said. “The enemy has not achieved its tasks, it has not won.”
Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told Reuters on Monday that Ukraine now had enough weapons to launch a counterattack, but declined to comment when asked if it had been launched.
In its evening report, Ukraine’s General Staff made no mention of a large-scale offensive operation, or suggested any other departure from the usual pace or scope of front-line fighting that has not changed significantly for months.
Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said in a telegram that Ukraine was “switching to offensive operations” in parts of the front line, but dismissed suggestions that it was part of a larger operation.
Maliar later said Ukrainian forces had advanced 200-1,600 meters (660 feet to a mile) around two villages north of the eastern city of Baghmut and 100-700 meters around villages to the west and south. progressed.
Mercenaries from Russia’s Wagner Group captured Bagmuth last month after a long battle and surrendered their positions there to regular Russian troops, but have been attacking Russian-held areas north and south of the city of Kyiv.
“Right now the main focus is on the Bagmuth sector,” said Maliar. “So far, it’s resulted in some success, including improvements. We’ve controlled some of the highs.”
An armed forces video showed Russian positions under fire and the head of the Wagner militia, Yevgeny Prigozhin, said Ukrainian forces had recaptured part of the settlement of Berkivka, northwest of Baghmut, calling it a “shame”.
Independent media reported that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s radio address was broadcast to three regions bordering Ukraine, saying Ukrainian forces had crossed the border, mobilization had begun and they had to flee.
“All these reports are completely fake,” Russian state-owned news agency RIA quoted Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying.
Kiev denied sending any troops into Russia, but said on Sunday that pro-Ukrainian forces had repeatedly entered one of the regions, Belgorod, in recent days and captured some Russian soldiers.
‘Fierce fighting going on’
Russia’s Defense Ministry released a video showing several Ukrainian armored vehicles exploding after being hit in a field.
Reuters was able to confirm the location of the two clips near Velika Novosilka, a village west of Wuhleder in southern Donetsk province, with road patterns, terrain, trees and other foliage matching satellite images of the area. Reuters could not independently verify the date the other clips or videos were shot.
Semyon Bekov, a popular Russian military blogger who blogs under the name Por Gonzo, wrote that Ukrainian forces were attacking the area.
Russian forces killed 250 Ukrainian soldiers and destroyed 16 tanks, three infantry fighting vehicles and 21 armored fighting vehicles, the Defense Ministry said.
Reuters could not verify the battlefield reports from either side.
ZELENSKIY tempers counter-offensive beliefs
Russia now controls at least 18% of internationally recognized Ukrainian territory and has claimed four more parts of Ukraine as Russian territory after annexing Crimea in 2014.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal published on Saturday that he was ready to launch it, but lowered his forecast for success and warned that it could take time and come at a high cost.
The success or failure of the counteroffensive, which is expected to be conducted with billions of dollars worth of advanced Western weaponry, will affect the shape of future Western diplomatic and military support for Ukraine.
Putin sent troops into Ukraine on February 24 last year in what the Kremlin hoped would be a swift move, but his forces suffered a series of defeats and had to retreat and regroup in the country’s east.
For months, tens of thousands of Russian troops have been digging in along a front line some 600 miles (1,000 km) long, vulnerable to a Ukrainian offensive expected to try to cut Russia’s so-called land bridge to the Crimean peninsula.
The Kremlin says the West is waging a hybrid war against Russia to sow discord and ultimately carve up its vast natural resources, allegations Western leaders deny.
Ukraine calls the invasion an imperialist-style land grab by Russia and vows to expel every last Russian soldier.
Additional reporting by Max Hunter and Dan Beleschuk; by Guy Faulconbridge, Lidia Kelly, David Ljunggren and Philippa Fletcher in Moscow; Editing by Nick MacPhee, Mark Heinrich and Hugh Lawson
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