In its long-distance counteroffensive against the invading Russian soldiers, Ukraine has celebrated its first territorial victories.
Unconfirmed images and video that surfaced on Sunday and early on Monday morning showed Ukrainian soldiers triumphantly hoisting their nation’s blue and yellow flag in the eastern Donetsk villages of Storozheve, Blahodatne, Neskuchne, and Makarivka, implying they had been liberated from occupying enemy forces.
Hanna Maliar, the deputy minister of defense of Ukraine, shared one of the images from Storozheve and expressed gratitude to the 35th Separate Brigade of Marines for liberating the city.
In order to protect an operation it thinks would recover large areas of land in the east and south of the country and eventually pose a threat to the land bridge Russia has created for use in supplying the annexed Crimean peninsula, Kyiv has imposed tight silence on its armed forces.
When you consider that Makarivka is 56 miles from the southern rim of the aforementioned bridge over the Sea of Azov and only 3 miles from the frontline, the advance symbolized by the retaking of the four villages, if confirmed, would amount to relatively small territorial gains.
But the symbolic significance of Ukraine’s most rapid progress in seven months, following a difficult winter, is clear; it is a much-needed boost to national morale for a beleaguered country that just one week ago suffered a major setback when the Nova Kakhovka Dam collapsed, allegedly as a result of Russian soldiers mines, flooding nearby towns for miles and killing livestock and ruining crops.
Ukraine is counting on the massive amount of equipment, intelligence, and training it has gotten from the West, along with its own combat tenacity, tactical acumen, and the drive to expel an invader from its own territory, to give it the upper hand in the struggle.
The nation is also aware that, in order to guarantee that its overseas partners continue to exhibit the same level of dedication, it may be necessary to make major progress over the summer.
According to the general staff of Ukraine’s armed forces, its soldiers had fought in twenty-two fierce battles over the course of the previous day on the eastern front, close to the abandoned village of Bakhmut, more south near Avdiivka and Maryinka, and farther north near Bilohorivka.
Although Moscow claimed last week that it had successfully fended off many attacks and caused significant deaths among the opposition troops, Moscow has yet to formally recognize any Ukrainian gains. Pro-Russian accounts on social media posted unverified video showing American and German armored vehicles being destroyed.
These early clashes may be more about testing Russian defenses than staking out significant territory gains, thus it is clearly too early to draw any judgments about the course of the counteroffensive from them.
The US-based Institute for the Study of War said Ukraine was attempting “an extraordinarily difficult tactical operation, a frontal assault against prepared defensive positions, further complicated by a lack of air superiority and these initial assaults should not be extrapolated to predict all Ukrainian operations”.
According to Ben Hodges, a former commander of US forces in Europe, the major assault, when it occurs, is anticipated to include several hundred tanks and infantry fighting vehicles.
“The offensive has clearly started, but not I think the main attack,” he said.
“When we see large, armoured formations join the assault, then I think we’ll know the main attack has really begun.”