A week after US officials said Ukraine was deploying extra troops to its counteroffensive, movement is limited on the southern front lines with fighting concentrated in two parts of Zaporizhzhia region, according to available videos and statements from official sources.
At the same time, Ukrainian officials continue to cool expectations for the progress of the operation, while Russian-appointed officials in the occupied south claimed that Ukrainian attempts to break through Russian military lines have been defeated.
Pro-Russian Telegram channels have posted images and video of destroyed Ukrainian armor, though it’s unclear when and exactly where the equipment was struck.
But Ukrainian forces have struggled to breach layers of Russian defenses as tank traps and minefields slow their advance. One Ukrainian official described the density of mines as “insane” on Wednesday.
The Ukrainian military said one Russian position in the Zaporizhzhia sector had been eliminated, along with an ammunition depot.
Around the Bakhmut area, the Ukrainians have not reported any further progress but have posted video of the targeting of Russian positions.
The Ukrainians have also posted video of additional Zuzana self-propelled artillery systems provided by Slovakia.
Oleksandr Syrskyi, Commander of Ukrainian Land Forces, posted on Telegram that a “gradual advance continues” in the Bakhmut area.
At the same time, Russian military bloggers have posted video of Ukrainian infantry vehicles being struck. One of the bloggers (Readovka) said that “the Russian army continues to repel the attacks of the AFU northwest of the city [of Bakhmut]. The fiercest fighting is now taking place near Klishchiivka,” a village south of Bakhmut that the Ukrainians have been trying to capture for several weeks.
‘No deadlines’ for counteroffensive
In the far north, in the Kupyansk direction, the Russian Defense Ministry says that well-hidden tank forces are providing support to infantry, “ensuring the advance of Russian troops.”
But here too there is no indication that either side is taking and holding meaningful territory. Oleksiy Danilov, Secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, said on Ukrainian television Wednesday that there were no deadlines for Ukraine’s counteroffensive.
“No one can set deadlines for us but ourselves. Secondly, there is no schedule….I have never used the phrase ‘counteroffensive’. There are military operations. They are complex, difficult, and depend on many factors.”
Danilov echoed what other Ukrainian officials have said recently.
“The main task for us is to save the lives of our people at the front. We have to understand that the enemy has prepared for these events very well, with a huge number of territories mined,” he said.
He described the density of the Russian mining as “insane.”
“On average, there are 3-4-5 mines per square meter. Imagine how difficult the work is to remove them to allow our military to move afterwards. And if earlier there were hopes that this could be done with the help of equipment provided by our partners, today our units are doing a very difficult job on foot in many parts of the frontline at night.”
The Institute for the Study of War says the Ukrainians switched to “slower and more careful operations while disrupting Russian rear areas with long-range precision strikes,” after the first stage of the offensive failed to achieve a breakthrough.
“Ukrainian forces are fighting now to break through the first line of long-prepared Russian defenses. Several lines lie behind it, stretching for many miles,” ISW said, in a commentary for Time magazine.
“The odds are high that fighting will remain hard, casualties high.” it said.
However, the ISW analysis added that “a steady pressure and interdiction campaign supported by major efforts such as the one now underway can generate gaps in the Russian lines that Ukrainian forces can exploit at first locally, but then for deeper penetrations.