KIEV, UKRAINE — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky officially confirmed on Saturday for the first time that Ukraine’s long-awaited offensive against Russian forces is underway.
“Counteroffensive and defensive actions are taking place in Ukraine. I won’t go into details at what stage,” Zelensky said at a joint press conference with visiting Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Canadian leaders pledged $375 million in additional military aid to Ukraine. Since Russia launched its full-scale invasion more than 15 months ago, the country has provided about $6 billion.
The Ukrainian offensive has been gradually focused in recent days, with ground attacks against Russian forces in three separate regions in the southeast and east of the country.
Prior to Mr Zelensky’s remarks, Ukrainian leaders declined to say whether the operation had been launched. Ukraine has repeatedly said it shares few details about what it describes as the largest operation since Russia’s invasion last February.
Meanwhile, Russian leader Vladimir Putin said on Friday that Russian forces were repelling an attempted advance by Ukrainian forces.
“I can say with certainty that the offensive has begun, as the use of the Ukrainian military’s strategic reserve forces shows,” Putin said at a meeting with other heads of state in the southern Russian city of Sochi. “However, the Ukrainian army has not fulfilled its mandated task in a single combat field.”
“I am in daily contact with the commanders. They are all positive. So please tell Putin,” Zelensky said on Saturday.
Ukraine strikes in three separate regions
According to reports, Ukrainian forces have attempted two incursions into southeastern Zaporizhia, and another near the eastern town of Bakhmut.
Many military analysts predicted a Ukrainian strike in the southeast to divide Russian forces in eastern Ukraine from those in southern Crimea.
One of Russia’s few successes in combat was building a land bridge along Ukraine’s southeastern coast last year, linking two groups of Russian fighter jets.
As Ukraine seeks to cut the ties, it faces off against Russian forces that have taken months of preparation. Russia has reportedly built a multi-layered defense, including trenches, minefields and concrete barriers, in areas it believes Ukraine is most likely to attack.
A further challenge for the Ukrainian military is that much of the terrain in the southeast is flat farmland, leaving little cover for advancing troops.
Still, Ukrainians believe they can deliver a powerful blow to the Russians with a brigade featuring thousands of soldiers recently trained in NATO countries and weapons upgrades supplied by the West. there is
Video and photos from the battlefield are limited, but some images show Ukrainians using Bradley combat vehicles recently acquired from the United States and Leopard tanks from Germany.
Analyst Dmitri Alperovich, who has been closely monitoring the war, “witnesses newly trained and equipped Ukrainian brigades participating in a massive armored attack on Russian positions.” said. “The brigade with its equipment was apparently built for this counteroffensive.”
Russians Destroy Western Equipment Supplied to Ukraine
However, the Russian Ministry of Defense has released a photo showing several of these armored vehicles, damaged and abandoned by the Ukrainian army.
But Arperovic, director of Washington think tank Silverado Policy Accelerator, said the early setbacks were not surprising.
“The attacks are just beginning and it’s too early to say what will happen,” he told NPR. “Ukraine is attacking heavily fortified Russian positions. Heavy casualties are expected.”
In addition to advancing into Ukraine’s southeast, the military is also attempting to advance near the eastern town of Bakhmut.
Russia recently captured the town, which had been reduced to rubble after months of heavy fighting. Ukraine, however, said there had been renewed fighting in recent days, with some progress north and south of the town.
Many analysts believe the Ukrainian objective in Bakhmut is to keep Russian forces in the town and prevent them from retreating to reinforce the southeast.
Elsewhere, the Russian military continues to fire missiles and drones at cities across Ukraine.
Russia opened more than 40 shots at three locations against Ukraine between Friday night and Saturday morning. Four Ukrainians were killed and more than 25 wounded, Ukrainian officials said.