The long-awaited and long-expected Ukrainian offensive that seeks to retake land captured by Russian forces over the course of the 16-month-long war there has begun, and early reports claim that Moscow’s troops are taking a beating.
“Ukraine’s HIMARS are now being used on the front lines to hit Russian positions in the south of the country, according to a prominent Russian war blogger,” Newsweek reported on Thursday, a reference to the U.S.-supplied rocket system.
“HIMARS (High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems) are being deployed ‘without hesitation, to be used on the very front’ in regions such as the eastern Donetsk and southern Zaporizhzhia regions, Kremlin propagandist Semyon Pegov, who runs the WarGonzo Telegram account, said on Thursday,” the report continued.
“They hit right on the advanced fortifications,” he wrote, adding Kyiv’s military could try to “cut through” Russian forces with the HIMARS.
“Kicking the HIMARS out of the trenches is much more difficult than tank attacks,” Pegov added.
Since the summer of 2022, Ukraine has incorporated HIMARS into its arsenal. The arrival of these wheeled, multiple-rocket launchers in June 2022 was met with praise from Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov, who described them as “powerful tools.” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky later remarked in late July 2022 that the addition of HIMARS and other precision weapons was significantly tilting the tides of war in their favor.
As part of its military aid packages, the United States has supplied Ukraine with 38 HIMARS, along with ammunition for the artillery systems. However, some experts claim that it is uncertain whether Ukraine has actually initiated its anticipated counteroffensive against Russian forces. On Monday, the Russian defense ministry reported that Ukraine had commenced a “large-scale offensive” on Sunday, concentrating on “five sectors of the front.”
“The adversary’s objective was to break through our defense on the most vulnerable front sector,” according to Russian defense ministry spokesperson, Lieutenant General Igor Konashenkov. The defense ministry went on to say that the offensive had already failed.
Earlier this week, Yevgeny Prigozhin, the Russian oligarch who heads the Wagner Group of mercenaries fighting in Ukraine, claimed that the Ukrainian forces had already breached the line of defense in multiple regions.
On Thursday, Vladimir Rogov, the leader of the pro-Moscow “We Are Together With Russia” movement, revealed to state media that Kyiv had been engaging in counteroffensive operations in the southern Zaporizhzhia region for a duration of approximately four days.
While Kyiv has maintained a predominantly secretive stance regarding its operations, the head of Ukraine’s Defense and Security Council refuted the notion of a counteroffensive commencing on Wednesday.
“All of this is not true,” Oleksiy Danilov told the Reuters news agency. “When all this will begin, it will be decided by our military.”
“When we start the counteroffensive, everyone will know about it, they will see it,” Danilov added.
During an announcement on Wednesday, Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar reported that Ukrainian forces had made notable advancements in various regions near the disputed city of Bakhmut, specifically ranging from 200 to 1,100 meters over the previous day.
In a separate Newsweek report, the outlet noted that “Russian soldiers fighting against Russian anti-Vladimir Putin militia that crossed into the Belgorod region bordering Ukraine last week have complained that ‘entire regiments’ are being wiped out.
According to the “Pskov Province” Telegram channel, a message was received on Tuesday from a Russian unit operating near the border town of Shebekino in Belgorod.
“I would like to see the story of our regiment being slaughtered on the Shebekino and Graivoron directions and somehow put the matter to rest,” the message said.
The report added:
Two Russian rebel groups—the Freedom of Russia Legion and the Russian Volunteer Corps (RVC)—entered Belgorod last week, and intense fighting has been ongoing since. The Legion is made up of defectors from the Russian armed forces and Russian and Belarusian volunteers, and the RVC says its members include Russians fighting on Ukraine’s side and against the Kremlin regime.
On Sunday, the RVC said it was behind an attack in the Belgorod region that resulted in the capture of several Russian soldiers.
It’s hard to know what exactly is going on.