KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukrainian forces are making a major effort to pierce Russian defense lines in southeastern Ukraine for a second day, a Moscow-based official said Monday, as Russia’s Defense Ministry said it had foiled an illegal offensive. An annexed part of an invaded country.
As the Ukrainian military prepares for a widely expected counteroffensive after more than 15 months of war, Kiev officials have suggested that the attack reports were a Russian disinformation ploy..
Vladimir Rogov, an official in the Russia-backed administration of Ukraine’s partially occupied Zaporizhzhia province, said on Monday fighting had resumed on its border with the eastern Donetsk region after Russian defenses repelled a Ukrainian advance the previous day.
“The enemy threw an even bigger force into yesterday’s (Sunday) attack,” and the new attempt to break the front line was “very large-scale and organized,” Rokov said: “A battle is underway.”
Rokov interpreted the Ukrainian military movements as part of an effort to reach the Azov coast and cut off the land corridor to the Crimean peninsula, which Moscow annexed in 2014.
Analysts have long viewed the strategy as cutting Russian forces in half and severely cutting off supplies to Crimea, which has served as the Russian military’s main hub in the war that began on February 24, 2022.
Rogo’s comments came after Moscow said it had repelled a major Ukrainian offensive in Donetsk province.near its border with Zaporizhzhia region.
Zaporizhia and Donetsk are two of the four provinces that President Vladimir Putin claimed as Russian territory last fall and are partially controlled by Moscow.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said Sunday it had repelled a “large-scale” attack on five locations in Donetsk province. The announcement could not be independently verified, and Ukrainian officials have not confirmed any attacks.
Ukraine often waits until its military operations are over and imposes news blackouts in the interim to confirm its actions. However, unconfirmed reports fueled speculation that a major Ukrainian ground operation could be launched as part of an anticipated counter-offensive.
In a video released by Ukraine’s Defense Ministry, soldiers put their fingers to their lips as a sign of silence. “Projects want peace,” it said on the screen. “There will be no announcement of commencement.”
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said in an extraordinary night video that 250 Ukrainian personnel were killed and 16 Ukrainian tanks, three infantry fighting vehicles and 21 armored fighting vehicles were destroyed in the fighting in Donetsk province.
“The enemy’s goal is to break through our defenses in the sector of the front, which is the most vulnerable, in its opinion,” said Konashenkov. “The enemy has not achieved its tasks. It has not won.”
The Russian ministry, which said the attack began on Sunday morning, waited until Monday to announce it.
In response, the Strategic Communications Center of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said in a telegram that Russian forces were “stepping up their information and psychological operations.”
“In order to demoralize Ukrainians and mislead society (including their own population), Russian propagandists will spread false information about the counterattack, its directions and losses of the Ukrainian army. Even if there is no counterattack,” a statement on Telegram read.
Ukrainian officials have said for months that a spring campaign with advanced weaponry provided by Western allies is planned to retake territory captured by Russia during the war, but they have been tight-lipped on when, where, and whether it might begin or has already begun.
Recent military actions, including drone strikes on MoscowCross-border attacks Infiltration into Russia and sabotage and drone attacks on infrastructure behind Russian borders have alarmed Russians.. Analysts say those actions could signal the start of a counteroffensive.
In other disruptions, television and radio broadcasts in several parts of Russia were hacked on Monday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. A fake broadcast featured a voice impersonating Putin and claimed that Ukrainian forces had occupied Russia’s Belgorod, Bryansk and Kursk regions.
The impersonator announced that martial law had been declared in those regions, where people were urged to leave, and that all Russians eligible for military duty were being mobilized, Peskov said in comments to Russian news agencies.
The Russian military said on Monday it had repelled a recent Ukrainian incursion into the Belgorod region on the border with Ukraine. Russians who consider fighting They said they attacked on Sunday alongside Ukrainian forces. The Russian Defense Ministry said they were driven back by airstrikes and artillery fire.
Michael Clarke, former head of the Royal United Services Institute think tank, said “increased momentum” in recent weeks marked the start of a counter-offensive and that Ukraine’s ground operation would begin in June.
“Something is happening,” he told the BBC.
At least two factors are at play this time: better ground conditions for moving troops and equipment after winter, and the use of more advanced Western weapons and the training of Ukrainian troops to use them.
Ukraine’s Western allies have sent 65 billion euros ($70 billion) in military aid to the country. To assist in its preservation. Repelling Kremlin forces poses a daunting challenge for Kiev’s planners. Russia has built elaborate defensive lines including trenches, minefields and anti-tank barriers.
Analysts say Ukraine could launch simultaneous thrusts on different parts of the front line, which stretches for about 1,100 kilometers (almost 700 miles).
A Russian Defense Ministry spokesman said Ukraine used six mechanized and two tank battalions in the Donetsk offensive. The ministry released a video it said showed some equipment in a field being destroyed.
In a rare specific reference to the presence of Russia’s top military leaders in battlefield operations, Konashenkov said General Valery Gerasimov, chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, “was in one of the forward command posts.”
Gerasimo’s announcement of direct involvement may be in response to criticism from some Russian military bloggers and Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the Russian mercenary group Wagner, that Russia’s military brass are not visible enough at the front or taking enough control or responsibility for their country. Military operations in Ukraine.
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