The Ukrainian army claimed to be gaining ground Monday along a wide front in the Bakhmut area, the “epicenter” of hostilities, amid Russian claims that the long-awaited Ukraine counteroffensive may be underway.
“We are successful, we occupy the dominant heights” surrounding Bakhmut, Deputy Minister of Defense Hanna Malyar said on Telegram. “The enemy is on the defensive. He wants to hold his position.”
The Russian Defense Ministry claimed Monday that Ukraine forces had begun a “large-scale offensive on five sectors of the front in the southern Donetsk area” − where Bakhmut is located − and said its troops fended off at least one attack.
Ukraine officials have said they won’t formally announce the start of the counteroffensive, but acknowledged their forces were indeed increasing offensive operations and suggested some of the Russian proclamations were misinformation.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, whose Wagner mercenaries were credited with seizing Bakhmut after months of battle, had harsh words for Russian regular troops assigned to hold the area. He said a nearby settlement had fallen and troops were abandoning their posts.
Pro-Russia military blogger Semen Pegov, known as WarGonzo, wrote that “news from the frontline … is getting more alarming every hour.” Pegov added that “the Armed Forces of Ukraine, unlike yesterday, are operating much more harmoniously and organized.”
Alexander Khodakovsky, deputy head of the Russian national guard in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, warned that “the enemy managed to put us in a difficult position.”
◾ Vladimir Rogov, a Russian official in Ukraine’s partly occupied Zaporizhzhia province, said fighting resumed on its border with the eastern Donetsk region Monday after Russian defenses beat back a Ukrainian advance the previous day.
◾ Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk are two of the four provinces President Vladimir Putin claimed as Russian territory last fall, along with Luhansk and Kherson. Russia occupies large stretches of the provinces.
◾ Ukraine neutralized at least 90% of the 300-plus explosive drones Russia sent its way in May with cheap air defense weapons and electronic jamming, blunting the Kremlin’s attempt to…