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Friday, Apr 19, 2024

Ukraine Launches Major Counteroffensive; Aims to Cripple Russian Grip on the South

The main thrust of Ukraine’s nearly two-month-old counteroffensive is now underway in the country’s southeast, two Pentagon officials said on Wednesday, with thousands of reinforcements pouring into the grinding battle, many of them trained and equipped by the West and, until now, held in reserve.
As Ukraine’s two-month-long counteroffensive surges ahead, the main thrust of the campaign is reportedly underway in the country's southeast. This comes according to two anonymous Pentagon officials on Wednesday, who indicated a large influx of reinforcements aiding the strenuous battle, the majority of whom are trained and armed by the West and until now, were held in reserve.

The officials referred to this escalation as "the big test," highlighting the strategic push to dismantle Russia’s grip on Ukraine's southern region. Their statements aligned with the day’s battlefield reports, which described intense artillery combat along the southern front line in the Zaporizhzhia region.

In a tense update from the conflict zone, Igor Konashenkov, the Russian Defense Ministry’s chief spokesman, reported a "massive" assault and fierce clashes south of Orikhiv. This strategically important town, currently under Ukrainian control, is situated about 60 miles north of the Sea of Azov. Vladimir Rogov, a Moscow-appointed official in southern Ukraine, added that the assault incorporated Ukrainian troops who had received foreign training and were armed with approximately 100 armored vehicles, including German-made Leopards and American-made Bradley Fighting Vehicles.

Meanwhile, Yevgeny Balitsky, another Russian occupation official in Zaporizhzhia, claimed Ukraine had made 36 attempts to bombard settlements in the region since Tuesday. However, Russian claims that the Ukrainian attacks had been thwarted couldn't be immediately confirmed.

On Wednesday, Ukrainian forces along the southern front stated that while they were consistently pushing back Russian troops, their advancement had been incremental, with no significant breakthroughs achieved. Hindered by minefields, the troops cited Russia’s relentless artillery fire and airstrikes as the most significant impediments.

The strategic objective of the bolstered Ukrainian force, according to officials, is to carve a path through Russia's minefields and fortifications, progressing southwards towards the city of Tokmak and then potentially further to Melitopol, located near the coast. The ultimate aim is to cut off the critical land connection between Russian-occupied Ukraine and the Crimean peninsula, or at least push forward enough to place the strategically significant peninsula within reach of Ukrainian artillery.

However, the pathway to victory is fraught with obstacles. Since the counteroffensive began in early June, the plan has been fraught with challenges, drawing close attention from White House and Pentagon officials.

Elucidating Ukraine’s strategy for this intensified push, U.S. officials highlighted three critical factors: Firstly, Ukrainian forces have made slow but steady progress in clearing a path through Russian minefields and fortifications. Secondly, they've identified an opportunity to take advantage of the turmoil in the local Russian leadership following the removal of regional Russian commander, Maj. Gen. Ivan Popov. Thirdly, Ukrainian artillery has consistently targeted Russian artillery, ammunition depots, and command posts deep within the front lines, creating a vulnerability that Ukrainian forces aim to exploit.

With these factors at play, a Western official, speaking anonymously, stated on Wednesday, "The Russians are stretched. They are still experiencing problems with logistics, supply, personnel and weapons. They're feeling the pressure.”

This operation, if successful, is expected to take one to three weeks according to Ukrainian officials.
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