KYIV, Ukraine – Forces in Ukraine have increased artillery strikes and ground movements on Monday that U.S. and Russian officials believe is the long-planned counteroffensive in the 15-month-old war.
The Russian Ministry of Defense said that a major Ukrainian operation had begun at five locations in the eastern Donetsk region and that it had repelled the assaults, The New York Times reported. U.S. officials, relying on information culled from American military satellites, also suggested that the Ukrainian counteroffensive had begun, according to the newspaper.
Hanna Maliar, Ukraine’s deputy defense minister, posted on Telegram that troops conducted several “offensive actions” in the eastern Donetsk region despite “stiff resistance and the enemy’s attempts to hold the occupied lines and positions,” The Washington Post reported.
However, Ukrainian officials denied Russian claims that the counteroffensive had begun and denied claims that the military action had been repelled, according to the newspaper.
Serhiy Cherevatyi, a spokesperson for the Ukrainian army’s eastern command, called the Russian claims “delusional,” the Post reported.
Maliar and other Ukrainian officials took to social media urging silence about any news of a counteroffensive, CNN reported.
A video shows several soldiers in combat gear putting their index fingers to their lips, saying “Shhh,” the cable news outlet reported.
“Plans love silence. The beginning (of the counteroffensive) will not be announced,” a banner at the end of the video notes.
One Ukrainian officer in the country’s southeast region told the Post that the counteroffensive had begun. The officer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to provide details, said that one unit had already pushed ahead on Sunday and allegedly destroyed eight Russian tanks.
The troops are focused on reconnaissance moves, “but the pace will increase every day,” the officer told the newspaper.
Ukrainian officials have said that troops had retaken territory in the northern and southern sections of Bakmut, CNN reported.
Ukrainian leaders have not told U.S. officials exactly when a counteroffensive would start but gave them a time frame about when the push would begin, the Times reported, citing a source who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence.
John Kirby, a spokesperson for the National Security Council, said any talk about a counteroffensive should come from Ukrainian officials.
“What I can speak to is how hard we worked to prepare them to be ready,” Kirby told reporters. “The president is confident we did everything we could over the last seven, eight months or more to make sure they had the capabilities to be successful.”
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