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‘Not a Hollywood Movie.’ Russia Mounts Strong Fightback to Ukraine Counteroffensive

KYIV — Ukraine is facing fierce Russian resistance in the south and east, as it plugs away with a counteroffensive to retake Russia-occupied territory.

The Ukrainian forces have been gaining ground, but fighting is taking place for every meter, Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said in a statement.

“The enemy is doing everything to keep the captured positions. Russians actively use assault and army aviation, and conduct intense artillery fire,” Maliar said. “During the offensive, our troops encounter continuous minefields, which are combined with anti-tank ditches. All this is combined with constant counterattacks by enemy units on armored vehicles and the massive use of ATGMs and kamikaze drones.”

Over the past day, Ukrainian troops have advanced 250 meters in the direction of Bakhmut in the area of the Berkhiv Reservoir, and another 200 meters in the direction of Toretsk in the Donetsk region, Maliar said. In the Zaporizhzia region, Ukraine’s army took back up to one kilometer in the Berdiansk direction, making it a three square kilometer total advance in the region so far. 

According to Maliar, battles are currently ongoing in several districts across south and east Ukraine.

Ukrainians and Russians have been reporting their gains in meters for months now. For example, in the nine-month battle for Bakhmut alone, Russia reportedly lost one soldier killed or wounded for every 48 centimeters of territory gained, the British defense ministry reported in recent days.

Outsize expectations

After last year’s rapid counteroffensive success in Kharkiv and Kherson, Ukraine is facing pressure to deliver equal or even better results.

A “successful Ukrainian counteroffensive could force Putin to negotiate an end of the war,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said at a press conference with Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani in Washington on Monday.

However, people not directly involved in the war may have outsize expectations, Taras Chmut, a Ukrainian military analyst and head of the largest Ukrainian military volunteer foundation, called Come Back Alive, told POLITICO.

“This is not a Hollywood movie. Ukrainian forces are advancing with the speed they need this time. The same way as last year’s counteroffensive. People do not have information on how many failed attempts were made last year before the grand success everyone cherished,” Chmut said.

Despite the Ukrainians having to push through minefields under artillery and aerial bombings, they have still reported gaining some ground. Over the past week, Ukraine reported liberating seven villages in the Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia regions. However, during the first weeks of the counteroffensive, the Ukrainian army has already lost at least 16 Bradleys and four Leopard tanks, open source intelligence project Oryx has reported. Ukrainian command did not comment on military equipment losses.

Targeted attacks

Meanwhile, Russian forces are having their command points and supply chains destroyed.

On Monday, Ukraine killed Russian army general Sergei Goriachev, Russian media reported, citing so-called Russian military bloggers. This information could not be independently verified. Russia’s defense ministry has not commented on Goriachev’s death.

Goriachev, who reportedly died in a missile strike in the Zaporizhzhia region, was a commander of the 35th Russian army. Russian independent media Istories reported Goriachev has become the 10th Russian general killed during the war.

Ivan Fedorov, exiled mayor of Melitopol — a city in the Russian-occupied part of Zaporizhzhia — said in a statement Tuesday that Ukrainian forces destroyed several bases of Russian soldiers in and around Melitopol.

Earlier Monday, Fedorov also reported that a Russian diesel locomotive was taken out in a local depot. “Russians have been using rails to transport fuel and weaponry to the war front. Every day their travel opportunities decrease,” Fedorov said.