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Fact or Fiction: Has Ukraine’s Big Offensive Begun?

M1 Abrams Tank Firing. Image Credit: Creative Commons.
M1 Abrams Tank firing. Image: Creative Commons.

There have been reports of intense fighting in Eastern Ukraine, and it would seem that Kyiv’s long-anticipated counteroffensive is underway, even as some government officials have suggested otherwise. Moscow has suggested that the assault began and has already been stopped.

“All of this is not true. When all this will begin, it will be decided by our military,” Oleksiy Danilov, Secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defence Council, told Reuters in an interview on Wednesday. “When we start the counteroffensive, everyone will know about it, they will see it.”

Danilov’s comments came as Russia claimed it completely blunted Ukraine’s attack.

Reports from the ground paint a different picture – both to the Kremlin’s official line that it has stopped Ukrainian forces and those of Danilov that downplayed talk of an offensive. If it isn’t the actual operation, it is still doing a good job of pushing back Russian forces across large swaths of occupied territory.

Differing Reports Tell a Similar Story

Ukraine reportedly “holds the initiative” in a number of sectors, the British Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced via social media on Thursday.

“Amidst a highly complex operational picture, heavy fighting continues along multiple sectors of the front. In most areas Ukraine holds the initiative,” the MoD reported, adding, “Russian forces are likely still being ordered to return to the offensive as soon as possible: Chechen units have led an unsuccessful attempt to take the town of Marivka, near Donetsk city, where the front line has changed little since 2015.”

The MoD also noted that both sides could be impacted following the collapse of the Kakhovka Dam, which has resulted in widespread flooding to the lower Dnipro River. It was expected to recede Thursday and throughout the weekend. “Shelling has complicated some attempts to evacuate displaced civilians from inundated areas,” the MoD suggested.

Russian state media has continued to downplay any gains, alleging that the full-scale offensive has been going on for three or four days with little ground taken.

HIMARS Pounding Russian Positions

There have been reports coming from a Russian war blogger that Kyiv has also deployed the U.S.-made M-142 HIMARS (High Mobility Artillery Rocket System) on the frontlines “without hesitation” to strike Russia’s “advanced fortifications.” Newsweek cited Telegram posts by Kremlin propagandist Semyon Pegov, who runs the WarGonzo account.

“Kicking the HIMARS out of the trenches is much more difficult than tank attacks,” Pegov added.

The HIMARS, which can carry one launch pod containing either six Guided MLRS (GMLRS)/MLRS rockets or one Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) missile, was developed to be a “shoot and scoot” platform. It can arrive at a designated launch site, shoot its payload and roll out before the enemy can return fire. Depending on the armament, the HIMARS has a range of 5.6 miles to upwards of 300 miles.

Ukraine received the first U.S.-made HIMARS last June, and the platform has been described as a “powerful tool” by Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov. To date, 38 HIMARS have been supplied to Kyiv as a part of Washington’s military aid package.

Western Aid – Proxy War?

However, such Western aid hasn’t gone unnoticed by the Kremlin – and on Wednesday, Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolay Patrushev suggested that Ukraine is being forced to fight a proxy war for the West, notably the United States.

“Ukraine is merely a tool in the hands of the West, and there is no war between the peoples of Russia and Ukraine. There is only the naked aggression of the United States. At the same time, our country is defending its people and its territories; and we are confident that we will win,” Patrushev said at a meeting with his Belarusian counterpart, Alexander Volfovich, Russian state media reported.

“I would like to note that no one benefits from the continuation of the crisis around Ukraine, except for the U.S.,” Patrushev added. “Washington has put the entire [continent of] Europe on its knees, forcing it to submit. Its goal is to extract the maximum benefit for its own economy by weakening the European Union, which could become one of the pillars of the multipolar world.”

Of course, Patrushev couldn’t explain why the fighting is now taking place in Ukraine, which Russia invaded more than 15 months ago as part of its “special military operation.”

Author Experience and Expertise: A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.

Written By

Expert Biography: A Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,000 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.