Ukraine Claims First Counteroffensive Advances With Villages Retaken

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The long-discussed Ukrainian spring counteroffensive is underway, Volodymyr Zelensky has confirmed, with the country reporting 25 battles fought in the past 24 hours and a handful of villages reclaimed.

Ukraine’s own reporting of its progress in the counteroffensive against Russia’s occupation of the southeast of their country claims a clutch of villages and positions taken encircling Donetsk on Monday morning. The gains would be the first settlements reported taken in the counteroffensive so far, which was officially declared by Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky on Saturday but appears to have been underway to varying degrees since early last week.

Three villages Makarivka, Neskuchne, and Storozheve which sit along the Mokri Yaly river, which runs north-south approximately 50 miles west of the city of Donetsk are now claimed to have been “de-occupied” by Ukraine. Volunteer soldiers of the AREY 7th Separate Battalion posted to social media an image of their fighters posing with the company flag amid the wreckage of liberated Neskuchne.

A brigade of marines again posed with a flag, this time the Ukrainian state flag, next to a bombed-out building to mark their liberation of Storozheve. Ukraine claimed they killed 50 Russian soldiers there and took four prisoners.

The villages are considered to have some strategic value because of their position along the Mokri Yaly, a dam on which was reported to have been blown by Russian troops at the weekend, flooding both banks. Valeriy Shershen, a spokesman for Ukrainian forces claimed this sabotage, which came just days after the destruction of a considerably larger dam on the Dnipro, was intended to slow the advance of Ukrainian troops.

DONETSK OBLAST, UKRAINE – JUNE 12: A screen grab captured from a video shows Ukrainian soldiers as Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar (not seen) claims that Ukrainian forces have retaken control of the village of Storozheve in the Donetsk region, Ukraine, on June 12, 2023, a major hotspot in the war between Moscow and Kyiv. (Photo by Mihail Ostrogradski 35th Brigade/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Shershen also praised the counteroffensive seeing its first breakthroughs, citing “the first localised results”. The reserved quality of the remarks is reflected in a British military intelligence digest of the counteroffensive so far, which says while in “some areas” Ukrainian forces will have “likely made good progress”, on the other hand “in others… progress has been slower”.

Also claimed to have been liberated by Ukraine in the last 24 hours was the village of Blahodatne to the southwest of Donetsk, as well as advances pushing the Russian lines backwards near Avdiivka to the north of the city. In all, Ukraine claims 25 “combat engagements” and to have been hit by Russian missile strikes against their troops 38 times in the last 24 hours.

Russia’s assessment of the situation was, as to be expected, less enthusiastic about the performance of Ukraine’s armed forces. Claiming to have “repulsed” several Ukrainian attacks around Donetsk over the weekend, Moscow also said they had destroyed another three German-made Leopard tanks on Saturday and to have eliminated almost a whole column of American-made Bradley armoured fighting vehicles.

These claims are difficult, if not impossible to verify at this time, although they follow closely other claims last week that appear to have been broadly accepted as true by Western sources that Russia has indeed destroyed at least one German-made Leopard 2 tank.

Speaking at the weekend, Ukraine’s President Zelensky confirmed the counteroffensive is now underway for the first time, having vowed before to not discuss it for operational reasons. He said: “the counteroffensive, defensive actions are taking place in Ukraine. I will not speak about which stage or phase they are in… Everyone is positive. Pass this on to Putin.”


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