Word that Kyiv’s military has begun to refresh its troops along the front lines in southern Ukraine could spell trouble for battered Russian forces in the coming weeks, according to the Institute for the Study of War (ISW).
Two Pentagon officials who spoke with The New York Times on Wednesday said that Ukraine has begun to rotate reinforcements into battle as the country continues to push its long-touted counteroffensive campaign. According to the report, many of the new troops have been “trained and equipped” by Western allies and were held in reserve up until now.
As the Times notes, the updates from U.S. defense officials line up with reports from Russian Ministry of Defense spokesperson Igor Konashenkov, who said that Ukraine had launched a “massive” attack in the Zaporizhzhia region just south of the city of Orikhiv on Wednesday, a sign that Kyiv has started a fresh phase in its counteroffensive.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has previously said that his nation’s push to reclaim Russian-occupied territory, including the Crimean Peninsula, has been moving “slower” than originally hoped. But the ISW said that the brand-new and “well established” forces could deliver some success for Ukraine as the new fighters face weary Russian troops. The think tank noted that Moscow has yet to offer any relief or significant reinforcements to its military elements along the front lines since the beginning of Ukraine’s counteroffensive last month.
“The introduction of fresh Ukrainian reserves to the effort, together with the geometry of Russian defensive lines and the likely degraded overall state of Russian forces in this area, may allow Ukraine to begin pursuing more successful advances south of Orikhiv in the coming weeks,” ISW wrote in its latest assessment on the war in Ukraine.
According to Ukrainian intelligence, the counteroffensive has reclaimed approximately 80 square miles and eight settlements since Kyiv launched its attack approximately seven weeks ago. That is a much slower pace than the country’s successful offensive campaign in the fall, when Ukraine was able to liberate nearly 4,600 square miles in a little less than a month.
Experts who spoke with Newsweek earlier this week said that NATO countries could be partially to blame for Ukraine’s sluggish attack plan, noting that Kyiv previously faced immense pressure to carry out the counteroffensive without being fully prepared to start.
The ISW wrote Wednesday that “Western officials are unhelpfully raising expectations for rapid and dramatic Ukrainian advances that Ukrainian forces are unlikely to be able to meet,” adding that while Ukrainian forces are capable of making significant gains on the battlefield, such advances “are likely to occur over a long period of time.” The think tank also noted the fresh Ukrainian troops will eventually also need “relief and rotation” as the war progresses.
During his nightly address, Zelensky claimed that his troops “at the front had very good results” during battle Wednesday, and that more information would be provided at a later date.
Newsweek reached out to the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense on Wednesday night via email for comment.
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