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31 Jan, 2024 22:04

Ukraine promises new ‘counteroffensive’

Kiev’s military intelligence chief believes that spring will bring another opportunity to break Russia’s defenses
Ukraine promises new ‘counteroffensive’

Ukrainian forces will go on the offensive against Russia once more in the spring, military intelligence chief Kirill Budanov told The Telegraph on Tuesday. It remains unclear how Kiev will acquire the weapons or the tens of thousands of men it needs to cover its losses after last summer’s failed counteroffensive.

Budanov claimed that Russia’s offensive operations around the Donbass settlements of Kupyansk, Liman, Artyomovsk (called Bakhmut in Ukraine), and Avdeevka will be “completely exhausted” by “early spring.” 

“We make a move, the enemy makes a move,” he said. “Now is the enemy’s turn. It will end, and then ours will start.”

Ukraine’s last counteroffensive began in June and lasted until around October, with Ukrainian forces attempting to penetrate Russia’s defensive lines at multiple points across Kherson, Zaporzhye, and Donetsk Regions. It failed to achieve any significant territorial gains and cost Kiev around 160,000 lives, according to figures from the Russian Defense Ministry. 

This time around, the Ukrainian military would be heading into battle with much of its Western-provided hardware destroyed and its best-trained troops replaced with inexperienced conscripts, all while continued military aid from the US remains uncertain. Even now, the situation at the front is “dramatic,” anonymous “generals and soldiers” told Germany’s Die Welt newspaper last week, citing shortages of vital ammunition and fresh recruits.

Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky announced plans last month to mobilize around 500,000 new conscripts to cover those lost since the beginning of the conflict almost two years ago. While Ukraine does not publish casualty figures, the Russian Defense Ministry places Kiev’s losses since February 2022 at nearly 400,000 men. Aleksey Arestovich, a former aide to President Vladimir Zelensky, put the figure at up to 300,000. 

Zelensky’s top general, Valery Zaluzhny, described the battlefield situation in November as a “stalemate,” a comment that reportedly angered Zelensky. Acrimony between the two men exploded into the headlines this week when Zelensky reportedly fired – then rehired – Zaluzhny, all while Kiev’s censorship office dismissed the story as a baseless rumor aimed at “destroying the unity of Ukrainian society.”

However, American officials told Bloomberg earlier this month that the rift between the president and the general was real, and was “slowing efforts to crystallize a new strategy” for the coming year. 

According to British newspaper The Times, Zaluzhny’s position was offered to Budanov, who declined. Had Zelensky replaced Zaluzhny with Budanov, he would have swapped a cynic with someone who shares his “messianic” belief in a military victory over Russia, as Zelensky’s aides described his vision in a Time magazine article last year.

It is unclear whether Zaluzhny, like Budanov, believes that Ukraine will be able to launch a counteroffensive this spring.