Russia claims to have foiled Ukrainian attacks in provinces annexed by Moscow

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russian officials said their forces thwarted broad Ukrainian attacks in two Ukrainian provinces illegally annexed by Moscow. Ukraine has not confirmed the attacks, making it unclear whether they marked the start of an anticipated counter-offensive.

The Russian Defense Ministry said in a rare early morning video released on Monday that its forces repelled a “full-scale” five-point assault on Sunday in Ukraine’s southern Donetsk province, one of the four regions that President Vladimir Putin claimed as Russian territory last fall, but is only partially controlled by Moscow.

“The enemy’s objective was to break through our defenses in the most vulnerable sector, in his opinion, of the front,” Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said. “The enemy has not fulfilled its tasks. It was not successful.

Konashenkov said 250 Ukrainian personnel were killed and 16 Ukrainian tanks, three infantry fighting vehicles and 21 armored fighting vehicles were destroyed.

Vladimir Rogov, a civil servant based in Moscow in the province of Zaporizhzhia, in the south-east of Ukraine. said on Sunday that Kyiv forces also tried to break through Russian defenses but were repelled after advancing 400 meters (less than a quarter of a mile) into Russian-occupied territory.

Active hostilities resumed early Monday, Rogov said, adding that “the enemy threw an even larger force into the attack than yesterday.” The new attempt to break through the front line was “more large-scale and organized”, he said, adding: “A battle is going on.”

Ukrainian officials have not confirmed the attacks. The Ukrainian Armed Forces Strategic Communications Center said on Telegram that Russian forces were “intensifying their information and psychological operations”.

“In order to demoralize Ukrainians and mislead the community (including their own population), Russian propagandists will spread false information about the counter-offensive, its directions and the losses of the Ukrainian army. Even if there is no counter-offensive,” read a statement on Telegram.

Ukraine often waits for the end of its military operations to confirm its actions, imposing press clippings in the meantime. The Russian Defense Ministry said the alleged Donetsk attack began on Sunday morning and it was unclear why it waited until Monday to announce it.

For months, Ukrainian officials have talked about plans to launch a spring counteroffensive to reclaim territory Russia has occupied since invading the country on February 24, 2022, as well as the Crimean peninsula, which it seized. in 2014.

But they gave confusing signals as to whether limited preliminary attacks aimed at weakening Russian military forces and installations would mark the start of the campaign, or just a full-fledged simultaneous assault along the entire 1,100 kilometer front line. (684 miles).

At least two factors played into the timing: improving ground conditions for the movement of troops and equipment after the winter, and the deployment of more advanced Western weapons and the training of Ukrainian troops in their use. .

The Russian Defense Ministry spokesman said Ukraine used six mechanized battalions and two tanks in the attack. The ministry released a video purporting to show the destruction of some equipment in a field.

In a rare specific mention of the presence of key Russian military leaders in battlefield operations, Konashenkov said that the Chief of Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, General Valery Gerasimov, “was at one of the forward command posts”.

The announcement of Gerasimov’s direct involvement may be a response to criticism from some Russian military bloggers and from Evgeny Prigozhin, the leader of the Russian mercenary group Wagner, that Russian military leaders have not been visible enough at the front or have not taken sufficient control or responsibility for their country. military operations in Ukraine.


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