On Monday, the Russian Defense Ministry (MoD) suggested that Ukraine launched its highly-anticipated counter-offensive on Sunday only to have it immediately quashed within hours by Russian forces. According to the MoD, Ukraine began a “large-scale offensive” when it attacked 5 sections of the frontlines in the Donbas region. Russia has said that it stopped the major attack before it got off the ground and killed some 250 Ukrainian troops in the process. As part of the offensive, Ukraine sent 6 mechanized and 2 tank battalions to Russian-controlled Donetsk in the south.
“On the morning of June 4, the enemy launched a large-scale offensive in five sectors of the front in the South Donetsk direction,” a statement from the MoD said. “The enemy has failed to reach its goals and was unsuccessful,” the statement added.
According to the MoD, Ukrainian forces lost a total of 21 armored vehicles, 6 tanks, and 3 infantry vehicles during the assault. “The enemy’s goal was to breach our defenses in what they assumed was the most vulnerable section of the frontline,” the MoD continued.
“During the day, the occupiers made 23 attacks, but all of them were repulsed by units of the defense forces,” the statement added describing attacks that occurred along the front lines of Kherson, Luhansk, and Zaporizhia.
The Ministry of Defense also confirmed that Russian Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov “was at one of the forward command posts,” at the time of the assaults.
Despite having said last week that Kyiv was ‘ready’ to launch a counteroffensive, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky made no mention of the attacks in his nightly address on Sunday, according to a ZeroHedge report.
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On Monday, Kyiv released a statement that denounced Russian ‘lies’ and propaganda that the Ukrainian government says are intended to mislead and otherwise demoralize Ukrainians.
Reuters reported that Oleksandr Syrskyi, the commander of Ukrainian ground forces, said on Monday that Ukrainian troops continued “moving forward” near the city of Bakhmut, which was captured by Wagner forces last month, but the commander did not comment regarding a counteroffensive.
According to the daily report from Ukraine’s General Staff, 29 combat clashes occurred in the eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine. Meanwhile, Ukraine’s Centre for Strategic Communications said that Moscow would spread lies, but the Centre did not provide any evidence of such misinformation and did not specifically address the Russian MoD statement.
“To demoralize Ukrainians and mislead the community (including their own population), Russian propagandists will spread false information about the counteroffensive, its directions, and the losses of the Ukrainian army,” the Centre for Strategic Communications said.
Many observers are taking Ukraine’s vague and muted response to what appear to be serious Russian claims as an indication that there is some truth behind the Kremlin’s statements.
To add to the situation, Ukrainian troops appear to have been openly taunting Russian forces in recent days ahead of the offensive.
If the facts align with the Russian MoD statement, then the defeat would likely be a huge blow to the morale of the Ukrainian military and could stall what momentum it has been able to build. There have also been widespread reports that Kyiv has been experiencing heavy casualties and as a result has had to resort to sending untrained and inexperienced Ukrainians to the frontlines en masse to replenish dwindling forces.
While the world watches and attempts to interpret Ukraine’s vague response to Russia’s significant claims, there are some small indicators from Ukraine that Kyiv has, in fact, launched “offensive actions” in various sectors.
Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister, however, is also emphasizing that Russia is making claims of quashing the counteroffensive as a means to “divert attention from the defeat” in areas near Bakhmut. However, if that is the case, then one must wonder why Ukraine is being so vague and quiet about the Russian claims if Kyiv does have its own victories to tout as well.