1)    It’s started, officially

After a week of saying very little at all about the uptick in Ukrainian military action, President Zelensky on Saturday afternoon confirmed the counteroffensive was underway. 

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

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Zelensky was responding to a question from a reporter about President Putin’s claim that Kyiv's long-expected counteroffensive was already failing.

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

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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!”

2)    Ukraine on Saturday was on the offensive in four areas 

On Saturday, Kyiv's forces conducted counteroffensive operations in at least four front-line areas, according to the Washington-based think tank the Institute for the Study of War (ISW). 

Russian milibloggers have reported that Ukrainian forces have made gains in the Bakhmut region and Ukraine’s military has said it had advanced up to 1,400m in some areas.

Ukrainian forces also made localized attacks in the Donetsk-Zaporizhia Oblast border area, according to the Russian Ministry of Defense, which described the attacks as “unsuccessful.”

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In the western Zaporizhia Oblast, Ukraine is reported to have made localized gains in the area southwest and southeast of Orikhiv.

Russian sources have also reported Ukrainian military activity in Luhansk Oblast near Bilohorivka.

 

 And on Sunday afternoon video emerged purporting to show the liberation of the village of Blahodatne in the Donetsk region.

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In an assessment on Saturday, the British Ministry of Defence said Ukraine’s progress had been good in some areas where they had “penetrated the first line of Russian defences,” but added: “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.”

Precise details are hard to come by but some extraordinary videos are emerging including this Humvee attack on Russian trenches.

3)    Ukraine is placing an emphasis on night operations in some areas

According to Zaporizhia Oblast occupation official Vladimir Rogov, Ukraine is launching night attacks to take advantage of three factors.

He wrote on Telegram: “The first is to reduce the efficiency of our aviation, the second is to avoid losses from accurate hits by the shock company of kamikaze drones of our 42nd division and the third is to make the most of the advantages of using Western-supplied equipment and instruments.”

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This western-supplied equipment includes superior night optics systems which gives Ukrainian forces a significant advantage over Russian forces.

To shore up that stockpile, Zelensky secured fresh pledges of military aid while meeting with visiting Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau over the weekend.

4)    ‘Initial steps’

Despite the official confirmation from Zelensky that the counteroffensive is underway, experts have cautioned we’re still only seeing the “initial steps.”

Ukrainian military analyst Oleksiy Hetman told NV: “What is happening now could be called 'reconnaissance in battle' - the first stage of the offensive.”

“It was impossible to make progress in depth. The goal was to check the enemy's defences. Let's wait a few days and see.”

5)    Ukraine has said the destruction of the Khakhovka dam was done to hinder the counteroffensive

On Sunday, Kyiv accused Russia of deliberately blowing up the Khakhovka dam in order to prevent Ukrainian troops from advancing in the southern Kherson region. 

In a post on Telegram, deputy defence minister Hanna Maliar, said: “The explosion of the Kakhovka hydroelectric power station was apparently carried out with the intention of preventing the Ukrainian Defence Forces from launching an offensive in the Kherson sector."

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She also said it was aimed at helping allow the deployment of the Kremlin’s reserve forces to the Zaporizhzhia and Bakhmut areas.

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