President Zelensky has said that counteroffensive action is underway against Russian forces, but has refused to go into any further detail.

Speaking at a joint press conference in Kyiv with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, he said:  "Counteroffensive and defensive actions are taking place in Ukraine: at which stage I will not talk in detail."

Zelensky was speaking in response to comment after President Putin claimed that Kyiv's long-expected counteroffensive was already failing.

"It's interesting what Putin said about our counteroffensive. It is important that Russia always feels this: that they do not have long left, in my opinion," Zelensky said.

He added that he was in daily touch with military commanders including armed forces chief Valery Zaluzhny and "everyone is positive now – tell that to Putin!"


What the latest on the ground?

Ukrainian forces are conducting offensive operations in four areas:

·      the Kreminna area of the Luhansk Oblast in eastern Ukraine

·      Bakhmut

·      western Donetsk Oblast near the border with Zaporizhia Oblast

·      western Zaporizhia Oblast

What has Ukraine said?

Before Zelensky's comments on Saturday, Ukraine had still not said the main counteroffensive is underway but had acknowledged there was heavy fighting in the eastern region of Donetsk on Friday.

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On Saturday, a military spokesperson said its forces had advanced up to 1,400 metres at a number of sections of the front line near the eastern city of Bakhmut. 

Without making a specific reference to a counteroffensive, President Zelensky on Friday evening praised the heroism of his country's soldiers.

"For our soldiers, for all those who are in particularly tough battles these days, we see your heroism, and we are grateful to you for every minute of your life," Zelensky said in his daily address. 

Elsewhere on Friday, in response to a request from Kyiv Post to confirm that recent military actions in eastern Ukraine were part of Kyiv’s counteroffensive, Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov replied: “Yes, we launched our counteroffensive on February 24, 2022.” 


What is Russia saying?

President Putin himself on Friday said Ukraine’s counteroffensive was underway but claimed it had so far "failed" to reach its goals.

 "We can definitely state that this Ukrainian offensive has begun," Putin said in a video interview published on Telegram by a Russian journalist.

"But the Ukrainian troops did not reach their aims in any area of combat," he added.

Putin said that "combat has continued for five days, with intense fighting yesterday and the day before."

He said Ukrainian forces had suffered "significant losses" but "the offensive potential of the Kyiv regime still remains."

Where is the fighting the heaviest?

Moscow has said that clashes have intensified since Thursday in the Zaporizhzhia region where many analysts expect Ukraine’s main attack to come.

A Ukrainian military success in the Zaporizhzhia region would enable its forces to break through the land bridge that connects Russia with the Crimean peninsula it annexed from Ukraine, which would be a major reversal for the Kremlin.


The Russian army has in recent months strengthened its front lines in the region, digging kilometres of trenches and fortifying defences.

The Russian army said it had repelled four attacks in the region, "carried out by forces of up to two battalion tactical groups, reinforced with tanks."

Although there is certainly fighting in the region, Russia’s suggestion that it already constitutes the main counteroffensive was dismissed by Ukrainian military analyst Oleksander Musiyenko.

In an interview with Ukrainian NV Radio, he said: “This is simply not true. It is not the main phase of the counter-offensive. It is merely a phase and not the large drive from which we can expect a rapid breakthrough and hundreds of kilometres of liberated territory.” 

Do we know how either side is performing? 

While specific details are lacking, the British Ministry of Defence (MoD) on Saturday said Ukraine’s performance so far was mixed, writing: “In some areas, Ukrainian forces have likely made good progress and penetrated the first line of Russian defences. In others, Ukrainian progress has been slower.”

The MoD went into more detail about Russia’s performance, saying: “Russian performance has been mixed: some units are likely conducting credible manoeuvre defence operations while others have pulled back in some disorder, amid increased reports of Russian casualties as they withdraw through their own minefields.


“The Russian Airforce has been unusually active over southern Ukraine, where the airspace is more permissive for Russia than in other parts of the country.

“However, it remains unclear whether tactical airstrikes have been effective.”

What about the videos of destroyed Ukrainian tanks? 

Russian sources have made a big deal of pictures and video of abandoned and destroyed Ukrainian tanks and vehicles in the western Zaporizhia Oblast, claiming that because they include a number of western-supplied Leopard tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles, it’s indicative of a failed main counteroffensive attempt.

Ukrainian officials and western analysts have emphasised that losses are to be expected in any military operation.

Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar said on Friday that “military equipment that cannot be destroyed” has yet to be invented.

The Washington-based think tank the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), noted that many of the vehicles were immobilised rather than destroyed and could be recoverable, and also that the crews “who are far more valuable than the vehicles themselves” likely escaped. 

One Russia milblogger condemned the excessive enthusiasm around the destruction of Ukrainian military equipment, saying that Western kit is not “some kind of magic.”


What else are analysts saying?

Western military analysts have been confident in their assessments of what has been happening this week. On Thursday, the ISW said, "The Ukrainian counteroffensive has begun."

"Ukraine's initial counteroffensive operations may be the most difficult and slowest, as they involve penetrating prepared defensive positions," the ISW said.

"This phase may also see the highest Ukrainian losses," it added.

Military analyst Michael Kofman told the Financial Times on Thursday that "based on the action yesterday, and the Western systems employed, it appears that the Ukrainian offensive is under way." 

Have Ukraine’s allies commented on the counteroffensive?

None have overridden Kyiv and said the that the counteroffensive is underway but in an interview with Politico, U.S. Ambassador to NATO Julianne Smith appeared to temper expectations about what it could deliver. 

"I think we're also very clear-eyed that this particular counteroffensive may not determine the end of this war," he said.


"We want the Ukrainians to continue to undertake efforts that will shift Putin's strategic calculus, and help him understand that he is failing and that he will not achieve his strategic objectives, and I think a successful counteroffensive could be helpful in that regard.”

The United States on Friday announced a $2.1-billion military aid package for Ukraine. The package included missiles for Patriot air defense systems, artillery rounds, drones and laser-guided rocket system munitions.

The new arms, illustrate "the continued commitment to both Ukraine's critical near-term capabilities as well as the enduring capacity of Ukraine's Armed Forces to defend its territory and deter Russian aggression over the long term," the Pentagon said in a statement.

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