Ukraine has reclaimed territory in Bakhmut, a remarkable advance after months of Russian gains in the city’s eastern sector.
According to Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Malyar, Ukrainian forces made two kilometers (1.2 miles) of progress in one week.
The allegations indicate a change in momentum in Bakhmut, but there is no evidence of the much-anticipated Ukrainian counteroffensive.
Following claims by both parties, Russia has denied reports of Ukrainian gains.
“The individual declarations on Telegram about a ‘breakthrough’ at several points on the frontline do not correspond to reality,” the Russian Ministry of Defence stated.
“The general situation in the zone of the special military operation is under control,” it added, using the Russian term for the invasion.
As the bloody, intense battle has dragged on, Bakhmut has gained symbolic significance, although many experts doubt its tactical value.
Ms. Malyar stated in a Telegram post that Bakhmut has assumed “almost sacred” significance for Russia.
She accused the Kremlin of simultaneously claiming false victories and disseminating false information about weapon and ammunition shortages.
Ms. Malyar, describing the “real situation” over the past week, asserted that Russia sustained significant troop losses while Ukraine gained 2 kilometers without losing positions.
On Thursday, Yevgeny Prigozhin, the commander of the Wagner mercenary unit fighting on the Russian side, accused conventional Russian forces of abandoning positions in Bakhmut.
He stated, “The situation on the flanks is developing according to the worst-case scenario.”
In addition, Russian military bloggers reported Ukrainian advancements or personnel movements in multiple regions.
According to the Institute for the Study of War, Ukrainian forces likely gained two kilometers in Bakhmut.
In addition, the US-based think tank asserted that the Russian defense ministry’s “unusual speed” in denying the Ukrainian counterattacks indicated “increased panic.”
Away from Bakhmut, the exiled mayor of Melitopol reported a large explosion on Friday morning in the city’s center, which has been under Russian occupation since the beginning of the conflict.
It is unknown what caused the explosion. According to Ukraine’s armed forces, the Ukrainian air force conducted 14 strikes against Russian forces and military materiel on Thursday.
In addition to the airstrikes, Ukraine reported that it had successfully attacked dozens of military targets, including artillery units, an ammunition depot, and air defense equipment.
A Ukrainian counteroffensive, aided by newly-arrived Western weapons, has been openly debated following months of stalemate. However, the president of Ukraine stated on Thursday that it was too early to launch an attack.
In an interview, President Volodymyr Zelensky stated, “With [what we already have], I believe we can move forward successfully.”
“However, we would lose many individuals. I believe that to be intolerable. Thus, we must wait. We still require additional time.”
In contrast, pro-Kremlin Russian war correspondent Sasha Kots asserted that the counteroffensive had begun despite President Zelensky’s words.
He stated, citing “reliable” sources, that Ukrainian tanks were on the Kharkiv ring road en route to the Russian frontier. His claims could not be verified independently.
“There are low-loaders in the columns carrying Western [tank] models, among others,” Kots explained.
“In other words,” he said, “Kiev [Kyiv] has decided to exacerbate the situation along the northern front in conjunction with the launch of offensive operations on the flanks of Artyomovsk [Bakhmut].”
Alexander Simonov, an additional Russian war correspondent, reported on Telegram that Ukrainian forces had broken through near the village of Bohdanivka, close to Bakhmut, and captured “several square kilometers” of territory.
Oleksandr Musivenko, a Ukrainian military analyst, acknowledged that the anticipated counteroffensive might not necessarily vanquish Russia “in all occupied areas.”
He told Ukrainian NV radio there was every chance the war will persist into the following year. “Everything depends on how the conflicts progress. We cannot predict how the counteroffensive will progress,” he stated.
CNN was told by an unnamed senior US military official that Ukrainian forces were preparing for a significant counteroffensive by targeting weapons depots, command centers, and armor and artillery systems.
The Ukrainian advances in the south and northeast of the country during the spring of 2022 were preceded by airstrikes designed to “shape” the battlefield.
According to the Russian Ministry of Defence, air and artillery forces are currently engaged in a battle near Malynivka, in eastern Donetsk, against Ukrainian forces.