After several days of vagueness, skilfully maintained by the Ukrainians, military analysts now have certainty: the counter-offensive by the Kiev army has begun, at least as regards its most dynamic land phase. “Counter-offensive operations are underway throughout the theater” U.S. think tank Institute for the Study of War (ISW), renowned for its comprehensive coverage of the conflict, says in an analysis published June 8, warning that “first setbacks are to be expected” for the Ukrainian troops given the density of the Russian defense lines.
Contrary to what common sense would have it, this counter-offensive is not being carried out in one place but in several, spaced from each other over the approximately 1,000 kilometers of the front line, frozen since the start of the last winter. “The offensive has started but it is progressive. It doesn’t look like General Patton’s Operation Cobra”assures a French military source, evoking the breakthrough made in a few days by the American forces in the Cotentin in July 1944, which had opened the road to Paris for the Allies.
The tricolor soldiers say they have identified at least six “lines of effort” Ukrainians, ranging from the north of the country, in the Kharkiv region, to the west of the Zaporijia oblast, passing through Bakhmout, where the fighting continues despite the fall of the city at the end of May. But it is in the South that the maneuvers seem for the moment the most important. According to the images broadcast on Russian social networks, the Ukrainian attacks began there on June 4, in an area west of Vouhledar.
Since then, several other incursions have been recorded between the town of Novopetrykivka, in Donetsk oblast, and the east of the Kakhovka reservoir, near the city of Vassylivka, on a line of about 150 kilometers. “At present, active fighting has resumed in the area between Orekhovo [le nom russe d’Orikhiv] and Tokmak », recognized, Friday, June 9, an official of the Russian occupation, Vladimir Rogov. Taking Tokmak, a city of about 30,000 inhabitants before the war, would open the way to the agglomerations of Melitopol and Berdiansk, allowing the Ukrainians to cut the Russian ground system in two and isolate the Crimean peninsula.
Seemingly counter-intuitive, this strategy of scattering efforts makes it possible, according to the Western military, to test the Russian defense lines and determine where the weak links are. After sixteen months of war and human losses which amount to tens of thousands of men, the Russians no longer have the means to defend the contact zone over its entire length, in any case in a homogeneous manner. “It is estimated that there are today fifteen Russian soldiers per kilometer on the front, against forty to fifty at the beginning of the war. The lines are stretched and leave crossing points »says a French officer.
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