Russia says Ukrainian assault has been prevented in Donetsk Oblast, but Kyiv dismisses claim as Ukraine makes advances in Donbas

Russia says Ukrainian assault has been prevented in Donetsk Oblast, but Kyiv dismisses claim as Ukraine makes advances in Donbas
Ukrainian tank reportedly assaulting Russian positions in Bakhmut / Ukrainian Armed Forces
By Dominic Culverwell in Poltava June 5, 2023

Russia claims to have blunted a Ukrainian assault in Donetsk Oblast, but Kyiv says Moscow is sowing disinformation as Ukraine makes advances in Donbas, Reuters reported on June 5.

The Russian Ministry of Defence wrote on Telegram that Ukraine “launched a large-scale offensive in five sectors of the front in the South Donetsk direction” on June 4, but this was stopped by Russian troops. The Ministry reports that the Russians killed 250 Ukrainian soldiers and destroyed 16 tanks, three infantry fighting vehicles and 21 armoured combat vehicles.

However, Moscow’s narrative has not been confirmed and Kyiv has not commented on the alleged failure, instead pointing towards recent successes in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Reuters said a video published by the Russia MoD showing Ukrainian armoured vehicles being hit has not been verified, nor have reports from Russian bloggers.

Despite not directly addressing Moscow’s claims, Ukraine's Centre for Strategic Communications warned that Russia is spreading “false information about the counter-offensive, its directions and the losses of the Ukrainian army”.

Oleksandr Syrskyi, the commander of Ukraine's ground forces, did not mention the supposed offensive but noted that Ukrainian troops are "moving forward" around Bakhmut in Northern Donetsk, despite Russia claiming to have taken the embattled city last month. Evgeny Prigozhin, commander of the Wager mercenary group, said that the Ukrainian army had secured positions in the city’s south-western outskirts and captured part of Berkhivka village, north of Bakhmut, on June 5.

“Now part of Berkhivka is already lost, the [Russian] troops are slowly fleeing. Disgrace!” Prigozhin said in a message, calling on Russian Minister of Defence Sergei Shoigu and Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces Valery Gerasimov to come to the front line.

The day before, Syrskyi claimed that Ukraine had advanced 400 metres towards Svatove, Luhansk region, after repelling Russian attacks near Maksiutivka, Novoselivske, Kuzemivka, Makiivka, Belohorivka and Spirne, Ukrinform reported.

The recent advances, although small, have led to speculations that Ukraine has launched its counter-offensive. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy told the Wall Street Journal that Ukraine is ready, despite not having received all the weapons it wanted.

“We cannot wait any longer,” he said in the interview. “The operation could take a long time and be costly.”

But details are being kept under wraps and Kyiv has said that it will not announce the start of the counter-offensive to liberate the territories occupied by Russia. Allies bolstered Ukraine’s arsenal in the latest Ramstein defence meeting after Zelenskiy toured European capitals last month and attended the G7 conference in Japan.

“Exactly how much territory, in which places it will depend on the developments on the ground when the Ukrainians launch this counter-offensive,” said US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan.

“But we believe that the Ukrainians will succeed in this counter-offensive,” he added.

Russia currently occupies around 18% of Ukraine’s territory. Last September, Moscow announced a sham referendum in the regions of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, claiming them as part of Russia.

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