What’s subsequent for Ukraine? Kyiv readies counteroffensive to push out Putin’s forces

Anticipation is mounting for Kyiv to lastly launch its long-awaited counteroffensive and ship a decisive blow that might rid the nation of the Russian menace — however the consensus is that the highway to liberation will probably be a protracted and bloody grind.

Ukrainian army brass have been understandably tight-lipped about their plans, not desirous to tip their hand and spoil what President Volodymyr Zelensky sarcastically known as “the shock,” however latest occasions in Bakhmut in jap Ukraine counsel that the counteroffensive could also be imminent.

Ukraine has an “crucial” to go on the offensive with a view to display to its Western companions — in addition to to its personal individuals — that it’s making progress after the winter stalemate, US Army Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt said on CNN.

Navy consultants have recognized 5 key areas the place Kyiv may unleash its counterpunch, which can get underway within the coming weeks as the nice and cozy climate dries out the muddy roads.


Zaporizhzhia in southeastern Ukraine has been touted as a promising launch level for the assault. If profitable, Kyiv’s troops may make their solution to the Russian-controlled metropolis of Melitopol on the Azov Sea and lower off Moscow’s provide traces linking the Donbas to Crimea, reported the Spanish newspaper El Pais, citing analysts.

Ukrainian armored battalions have reportedly been getting ready for battle in Zaporizhzhia, whereas Russia, which controls half of the province — together with town of Enerhodar that’s residence to Europe’s largest nuclear energy plant — has introduced evacuations of civilians in cities adjoining to the entrance.

Russians have been busy digging trenches close to a reservoir across the Zaporizhzhia nuclear facility in preparation for a potential assault.

The pink space on this map reveals Ukrainian territory that has been captured by Russia since 2014 and February 2022, which Kyiv will quickly try to retake.
Institute for the Research of Conflict and AEI’s Vital Threats Challenge


Kherson, southwest of Zaporizhzhia, has additionally been floated as a counteroffensive contender.

Gen. Kimmitt speculated that the Ukrainian military may attempt to slash by Russian-held territory stretching from Kherson within the west to Berdiansk within the east.

Kimmitt mentioned the transfer, if profitable, would “unhinge” the Russian offensive and “basically put all of Crimea in danger.”

In a distinct state of affairs, Kyiv’s troops may launch an amphibious assault in opposition to the far financial institution of the Dnipro River, which is at present dividing the Russian and Ukrainian armies.

Ukraine recaptured town of Kherson and the encompassing cities again in November, forcing Russian troopers to retreat to the alternative river financial institution, from the place they’ve been mercilessly shelling the Ukrainian-controlled territory for the previous seven months.

Attempting to interrupt by on this space could be a tall order as a result of the river is a mile extensive, and any makes an attempt by Kyiv’s forces to cross the Dnipro through pontoon bridges could be met with artillery barrages.


These satellite images provided by MaxarTechnologies show school and apartment buildings in Bakhmut, Ukraine, Sunday, May 8, 2022, top, and the same buildings demolished on Monday, May 15, 2023, bottom.
Russian forces have been battling to grab the just about utterly destroyed metropolis of Bakhmut, which they view as a stepping stone to taking full management of the Donbas area.

After which there’s Bakhmut within the east, which has seen a few of the most ferocious preventing of the battle and has been in comparison with a “meat grinder.”

On Thursday, the Ukrainian army reported that its troops had advanced in places around Bakhmut by greater than a mile, marking Kyiv’s largest good points there in six months.

Russian mercenaries with the Wagner Group have spent greater than 9 months attempting to seize the principally obliterated metropolis, which Moscow views as a stepping stone in direction of gobbling up the remainder of the jap Donbas area.

Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin, who has been openly feuding with Russian military brass and accusing them of denying his mercenaries ammunition, confirmed that common troops have been abandoning their positions on the flanks, at the same time as his fighters continued advancing inside town.

Ukraine revealed that its tactic round Bakhmut is intentionally to attract Russians into town in a bid to weaken Moscow’s defenses elsewhere forward of the counterassault.

“Wagner troops climbed into Bakhmut like rats right into a mousetrap,” Oleksander Syrskyi, commander of Ukraine’s floor forces, informed troops in a video he launched this week.

Ukrainian officers have signaled that the motion round Bakhmut isn’t a part of the broader counteroffensive however is a prelude to it.

An interactive map created by the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), final up to date Wednesday, reveals Ukrainian advances in areas north and south of Bakhmut, together with close to the cities of Bohdanivka and Hryhorivka, Ivanivske and Bila hora.

A Ukrainian army Grad multiple rocket launcher, fires rockets at Russian positions in the frontline near Bakhmut, Donetsk region, Ukraine, Wednesday, May 17.
Ukrainians have been advancing round Bakhmut in latest days after Russian regulars fled their positions on the flanks.


Somewhat than focusing solely on Bakhmut, Ukrainian troops may unleash an assault on all the Donetsk province within the east, giant swaths of which have been below the management of Moscow-backed separatists for almost a decade.

Battles have been raging across the city of Marinka within the province, and Ukrainians have been advancing alongside the Krasnohorivka railroad, based on analyses from the ISW.

One of many main Russian goals within the battle is to take full management of Donetsk, the place the cities of Kramatorsk and Sloviansk stay in Ukrainian arms.

Like in Zaporizhzhia, Russians in Donetsk have been digging trenches and erecting barricades throughout all the entrance line in preparation for a counterpunch in that path. 


The Kharkiv province within the northeast has been below Kyiv’s management since September, when Ukraine launched its first profitable counteroffensive. The area has seen little army exercise over the previous few months. Nonetheless, it has been talked about as a potential launch level for an assault in opposition to the Russian-controlled Luhansk province.

In response to some experiences citing Russian sources, Ukrainians have been finishing up reconnaissance and sabotage missions across the metropolis of Kreminna, and the 2 armies have been in a standoff between the cities of Novoselivske and Kuzemivka.

Away from the blood-soaked battlefields of the Donbas, consultants imagine that Ukraine has been “softening” the enemy by finishing up drone assaults in opposition to Russian gasoline depots and storage amenities, oil pipelines and trains.

Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a cabinet meeting via videoconference at Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, May 17, 2023.
Vladimir Putin’s objective is to take full management of the Donbas area, comprised of Donetsk and Luhansk, and safe Crimea.

Between April 24 and Might 11, no less than 10 such incidents have been reported in Russia or its occupied territories in Ukraine. Kyiv has not taken accountability for any of the strikes, a few of which have been reportedly carried out utilizing British-supplied Storm Shadow long-range cruise missiles.

Consultants imagine that Ukraine, whose army drive is a fourth of Russia’s, is trying to destroy the enemy’s assets, together with gasoline wanted to energy their tanks and armored autos, with a view to degree the enjoying area forward of the counteroffensive.

“That is the preparatory stage,” Oleksandr Kovalenko, an analyst on the Ukrainian Heart for Safety Research told the Wall Street Journal. “It’s about destabilizing and weakening the capabilities of the enemy earlier than the offensive.”

In a dialog with NPR’s Ailsa Chang this week, Max Bergmann, head of the Europe, Russia and Eurasia Program on the Heart for Strategic and Worldwide Research, mentioned that the extraordinary preventing at present taking place within the Donbas might be a “diversionary tactic” meant to distract from Kyiv’s march south in direction of Crimea.

Bergmann warned that Russians have been actively getting ready for Kyiv’s counteroffensive by digging in World Conflict I-style trenches and rigging barricades and barbed wire to cease the Ukrainians’ progress.

“The issue that Russians have is the road is pretty lengthy,” he added. “They’re going to must defend numerous territory, they usually’re going to must kind of guess the place the primary thrust of the offensive will go.”

Shipments of recent battle tanks, missile programs, air protection programs and ammunition equipped by NATO member states have been streaming into Kyiv for the previous a number of months in anticipation of the counterattack.

The overarching objective for Ukraine’s forces is to liberate the sixth of the nation’s territory that Moscow claims to have annexed, together with the Crimean Peninsula, which has been below Russian management since 2014.

In response to Bergmann, Ukrainians would seemingly attempt to isolate Crimea after which put it below missile risk.

Zelensky has been persistently obscure concerning the timeline of the looming counteroffensive. In an interview for public service broadcasters final week, he mentioned that Ukraine wants “a bit of bit extra time” earlier than happening the offensive.

Zelensky mentioned that whereas Kyiv’s troops, a few of whom had been skilled within the US, Germany and the UK, are “prepared,” the army nonetheless requires “some issues,” corresponding to armored autos pledged by allies.

“With [what we already have] we will go ahead, and, I believe, achieve success,” he mentioned. “However we’d lose lots of people. I believe that’s unacceptable. So we have to wait.”

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky addresses, via videolink, the opening ceremony of the Council of Europe summit in Reykjavik, Iceland, Tuesday, May 16, 2023
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has been tight-lipped concerning the coming offensive, telling reporters he didn’t need to spoil the Russians’ “shock.”

Following that interview, Zelensky went on a whirlwind tour that noticed him journey to Rome, Berlin, Paris and London to safe extra {hardware} to beef up Ukraine’s burgeoning arsenal, together with long-range drones.

However firepower would solely take Ukrainians up to now.

Retired US Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling, warned that Ukraine’s army commanders are going through the daunting activity of getting to include new Western tools and troops contemporary off their coaching abroad right into a cohesive drive that will probably be efficient on the battlefield.

“A fancy set of obstacles and an intimidating collection of defensive belts and potential ‘kill zones’ await in Kherson and Zaporizhzhia oblasts,” Hertling wrote in a Washinton Post op-ed Monday. “The Russians could have a bonus in occupying these static defensive positions, however provided that their troopers determine to battle.”

Hertling predicts that Kyiv’s forces will finally liberate most — “if not all” — of the annexed territories, however he warns that “it’s inconceivable to say with any certainty how precisely it’s going to play out.”

However some consultants imagine that even when Ukraine’s counteroffensive is a triumph, and Kyiv’s troops are in a position to claw again the annexed lands from Moscow, it’s unlikely to finish the battle any time quickly – a chilling prospect that raises a brand new set of difficult questions for the way forward for Ukraine.

Rob Lee, senior fellow at Overseas Coverage Analysis Institute’s Eurasia Program, believes that Western policymakers up to now have accomplished a poor job defining what success would seem like for Ukraine and getting ready for what occurs after the counteroffensive.

“The massive query is what occurs perhaps within the fall or winter, as a result of the ammunition state of affairs could turn out to be tougher,” Lee said in a CNN interview. “It’s not a sustainable approach of going ahead.”

Hertling sounded an identical be aware in his Washington Publish piece, arguing that NATO nations “should put together to proceed supporting Ukraine’s army indefinitely.”

“All wars finish in some kind of political settlement, however Russia is unlikely to be satiated,” the ex-general writes. “Even with a decimated army, Russia will try to rebuild, and Ukraine will stay weak.”

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