Ukrainian forces have made progress in the eastern city of Bakhmut, which has been described as the epicentre of hostilities by Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Maliar. While Maliar did not explicitly confirm the commencement of a long-awaited counter-offensive, her statement indicated advancements in the ongoing conflict. At the same time, Russia's military claimed to have repelled a fresh attack in the Donetsk region.
Ukrainian Advancements and Symbolic Importance of Bakhmut
Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Maliar stated on social media that Ukrainian military units had advanced in multiple directions during the fighting around Bakhmut. She reported gains of up to 1,600m in Orikhovo-Vasulivka and Paraskoviivka, as well as advancements of 100m to 700m in Ivanivske and Klishchiivka, all located near Bakhmut. The battle for Bakhmut has been the longest and bloodiest of the war, holding symbolic significance for both Kyiv and Moscow, despite its limited strategic value.
Awaited Ukrainian Counter-Offensive and Increased Military Activity
Speculation about a major Ukrainian counter-offensive has been ongoing, with recent reports suggesting that encircling Bakhmut and trapping Russian units could be a goal. While Kyiv has not officially announced the start of the counter-offensive, military sources indicated that small-scale armoured offensive operations were underway. The reported advancements and increased military activity are seen as indications that the long-anticipated Ukrainian push may have commenced.
Russian Claims and Ukrainian Response
Russia's defence ministry announced the repulsion of a new attack by Ukrainian forces in the Donetsk region, claiming heavy casualties and the destruction of tanks, including German-made Leopards. However, these claims have not been verified. The Russian paramilitary group Wagner previously asserted that it had captured Bakhmut in May, adding complexity to the situation. The Ukrainian military denied having information about a major attack in the region and dismissed Russia's claims as wild fantasy.
The Path Ahead and Foreign Involvement
Ukraine has been preparing for a counter-offensive for months, acquiring weapons and training troops. While the timing remains uncertain, Ukrainian officials have urged against public speculation that could aid the enemy. The government in Kyiv seeks to demonstrate its ability to break through Russian lines, end the military deadlock, and regain sovereign territory. Additionally, fighters opposing the Moscow government claimed to have captured Russian soldiers near the Ukrainian border, highlighting the involvement of non-state actors in the conflict.
President Zelensky's Meeting and Prospects for Peace
President Volodymyr Zelensky met with UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly in Kyiv, discussing expectations for the upcoming NATO summit in Vilnius and Ukraine's peace proposals. As Ukraine strives to liberate territory captured by Russia, the conflict's resolution is a crucial matter for the government in Kyiv, its people, and Western allies. However, achieving this goal will likely take time and careful planning.