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Ukraine’s ‘counteroffensive’ — the war with Russia could get really dirty now

The events on the battlefield could become a turning point in the main military and geopolitical conflict of the modern world, where the West is fighting its decisive battle with Putin's Russia (Image courtesy: Twitter/@ZelenskyyUa)

Ukraine army’s grand offensive, aimed to change the course of the bloody war with Russia after a 16-month standoff and a deadlock at the battlefield, is finally turning into a game-changing reality.

In the first days of June, the armed forces of Ukraine launched attacks on several sectors of the front, which were repelled in all directions, Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said this week. “Unfortunately, it was not without our losses. In total, 71 servicemen were killed and 210 were injured during the repulse of the enemy’s offensive. On the Russian side, 15 tanks, nine infantry fighting vehicles, two cars and nine guns were shot down”, said Sergei Shoigu.

However, Ukraine’s losses are heavier, Shoigu added.

During the three days of fighting in all directions, the overall losses of the armed forces of Ukraine amounted to 3,715 servicemen, 52 tanks, 207 armoured combat vehicles, 134 vehicles, five aircraft, two helicopters, 48 field artillery guns and 53 unmanned aerial vehicles.

It is very symbolic that the Russian Defence Ministry has not reported its losses for the last nine months.

Before that, last September, on the day of the announcement of partial mobilization, Sergei Shoigu said that 5,937 Russian soldiers had been killed since the beginning of the military operation in Ukraine.

Despite the intensification of hostilities in the first days of June, Russian politicians, military, and experts are unable to reach a consensus on whether the events at the battlefield can be seen as the widely advertised counteroffensive of the Ukrainian army, which has been talked about in Kyiv and Western capitals over the past months.

Many still believe that the general offensive has not yet begun, but for now we are observing a certain preparatory stage.

Therefore, the Ukrainian offensive largely remains a mystery, giving endless field for speculations and rumours, fueled by vague-worded statements by President Zelensky and his top brass. Some say there will be not one offensive but two or three, others argue it will not take place at all the way everybody expected it to be. So, everyone understands it in his own way trying to unwrap the riddle.

In another dramatic development, the Ukrainian side intensified sabotage activities on Russian territory to disorient the Russian military command, sow panic and shake up the situation inside Russia.

In the last week, Ukraine has been shelling border towns and villages in Belgorod and other neighbouring regions, using American and British long-range artillery, while Ukrainian commandos in the cross-border attacks are seizing hostages and carrying out acts of intimidation.

The most resonant act of sabotage, which has all the signs of a terrorist act this week was the blowing up of the Kakhovskaya hydroelectric dam on the Dnieper River. The shelling of a hydroelectric power station using American missiles resulted in the flooding of several cities and villages and seriously complicated the supply of water to Crimea.

Reacting to the attacks on the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant and other infrastructure facilities on Russia-controlled territory, Western leaders call it Ukraine’s “acts of self-defence”.

Against this background, various sources say that the Ukrainian command can no longer postpone the general offensive, awaited by the Western countries. Ukraine is moving from the previous tactics of cautiously testing the frontline to identify Russia’s bottlenecks and weak points to more robust attempts to break through the front.

The last weeks of the previous so-called “movement to contact” battles have not identified a site where Ukrainian troops could finally launch a grand offensive with a high probability of breaking through the front and developing success with minimal losses.

In this regard, at present the Ukrainian side has to shift to a methodical increase of power in its attacks. The Ukrainian troops are acting according to a classic textbook offensive scheme that envisaged the creation of overwhelming superiority over the enemy in the particular place of the designated breakthrough.

Such tactics can bring success. However, it can also have serious costs and side effects. Its implementation is fraught with large losses and the burning of reserves as the units involved in the attack can no longer be pulled back and are used until their offensive potential is completely exhausted.

According to leaks from Kyiv, well aware of that, the General Staff of the Ukrainian army is not too optimistic. The losses suffered by the Ukrainian army over the past month – destroyed ammunition depots and fuel and lubricants, as well as losses in the top military leadership, have already seriously disrupted the supply system of troops and combat control.

There is a risk that the widely advertised offensive will not give any strategic success. At best, the Ukrainian army will be able to advance two or three dozen kilometers in some directions at the cost of huge losses and the destruction of its reserves, experts say.

In this regard, the military command last week appealed to President Zelensky with a request to postpone the offensive and get additional days to restore the combat control system, stockpile and armament. With the same request, the Ukrainian command went through operational channels to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the United States, General Mark Milley.

However, US President Joe Biden and his Western allies need a game-changing result – a military defeat of Russia.

Therefore, in the coming days, we can expect a sharp increase in the attacks of the Ukrainian army involving its main reserves.

The stakes for Ukrainians and their Western mentors are so high that they will throw all their potential into the battle and fight with all the bitterness of people who have nothing to lose while Ukraine’s counteroffensive would remain a double-edged sword.

All in all, the events on the battlefield could become a turning point in the main military and geopolitical conflict of the modern world, where the West is fighting its decisive battle with Putin’s Russia.

(Sergei Strokan is a veteran journalist, writer and columnist of the Kommersant publishing house based in Moscow. The views expressed are personal and exclusive to India Narrative)