Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that Ukraine had intensified its frontline attacks over the last few days while a Ukrainian official said Kyiv was making slow but steady progress in liberating its territory.
On Wednesday, three different media outlets cited unnamed U.S. officials as saying Kyiv had launched a new phase of its ambitious counteroffensive which seeks to eject Russian troops from the nearly 20% of Ukrainian land still under occupation.
Asked about these reports, Yuriy Sak, an adviser to Ukraine’s defence minister, told Reuters that “there is nothing new” happening at front lines. “In the south, we are moving forward slowly but surely,” he said.
Meanwhile, Putin told Russian television that every Ukrainian assault had been beaten back, and that Moscow’s forces had inflicted significant losses on their opponents.
Kyiv and Moscow’s defence ministries offered contradicting accounts of fighting.
Russia’s Defence Ministry said Russian forces had repelled Ukrainian attacks around the village of Klishchiivka near Bakhmut, and north of Robotyne on the front line in the Zaporizhzhia region, Russian state news agency TASS reported.
However, Ukrainian Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Maliar wrote on Telegram that Ukrainian forces were “gradually moving forward” near Bakhmut, and that fighting was ongoing near Klischiivka, Kudriumivka and Andriivka.
Maliar also said Ukraine had beaten back Russian attacks on two northern fronts near Kupiansk and Lyman.
Reuters could not independently verify the battlefield reports.
Ukraine’s counteroffensive has thus far moved slowly, only recapturing several hundred square kilometres, a tiny fraction of the territory still under Russian control.
However, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky hailed “very good results” on the battlefield in an address on Tuesday evening, promising to give details later.
One of the few areas where Kyiv has enjoyed success so far has been along the Mokri Yaly river in southeastern Ukraine, where Ukrainian troops have captured several settlements and are now nearing the Russian-held village of Staromaiorske.
Aleksandr Khodakovsky, an influential Moscow-backed separatist commander in eastern Ukraine, posted an angry message on his Telegram channel on Wednesday complaining about heavy shelling of Staromaiorske over several days followed by a Ukrainian assault which had made some gains.
Sak said there was fighting ongoing near Staromaiorske but the village was “not yet” under Ukrainian control.
Zelensky visited Dnipro in southeastern Ukraine on Thursday to discuss the situation on the battlefield, supplies for troops and how to strengthen air defences.
“We started the working day in Dnipro,” Zelensky said on the Telegram messaging app under video footage of him leading a meeting with military commanders and government officials.
“As always, we pay close attention to the supply of ammunition to our troops. The efficiency of using the existing air defence systems and reinforcing the sky shield, taking into account supplies from partners,” he said.
The city of Dnipro, an important economic centre in southeastern Ukraine, is not far from the front line that stretches from Kherson in the south, through the Donbas region and further north to the Kharkiv region.
The city had a pre-war population of about 1 million people, and has become a logistical and humanitarian hub for Ukraine since Russia’s full-scale invasion on Feb. 24, 2022.
Zelensky said he discussed a review of conscription offices across the country that was launched after multiple allegations of corruption and complaints about the mobilization process. “The comprehensive inspection … is coming to an end. Eleven regions are under special control,” he said.
Earlier on Thursday, Ukrainian officials said Russian forces had struck port infrastructure in the southern region of Odesa in an overnight missile attack, killing a security guard and damaging a cargo terminal.