Russia said on Monday that the Ukrainian army had launched a major attack in an effort to break through its defenses on the eastern frontlines of the war.
kyiv neither confirmed nor denied claims by Moscow officials and the country’s influential military bloggers, but warned against Russian misinformation.
It was not immediately clear whether this marked the start of the major counter-offensive that kyiv has been planning for months to reclaim land occupied since last February’s invasion.
The Russian Defense Ministry said in an overnight statement that Ukrainian ground forces launched “a full-scale offensive” on Sunday evening in five areas of the Donetsk region in eastern Ukraine.
Ukraine used two brigades from its “strategic reserves” in the attack, with six mechanized battalions and two tanks involved, the ministry said. He added that Ukraine had lost more than 250 soldiers, as well as 16 tanks and other equipment.
“The enemy’s objective was to break through the Russian defenses in what he considered to be the most vulnerable area of the front,” the statement said. “The enemy failed to achieve its objectives.”
NBC News has not verified the claims.
Russia won a rare victory in the region last month after taking the battered town of Bakhmut, but the front lines have otherwise remained largely static for months. It has long been speculated that Donetsk – which together with its neighbor Luhansk forms the Donbass region annexed by the Kremlin – would be a target of the Ukrainian counteroffensive.
There was no immediate reaction from the Ukrainian government or senior officials, but the strategic communications branch of the country’s armed forces warned against allegations of Russian disinformation.
“To demoralize Ukrainians and deceive the community (including their own population), Russian propagandists will spread false information about the counter-offensive, its directions and the losses of the Ukrainian army,” he said.
But while the Russian Defense Ministry claimed to have repelled Ukrainian attacks, some war correspondents and military bloggers – increasingly influential news sources since the invasion – described new attacks on Monday and suggested that some might succeed.
Alexander Kots, military correspondent for the pro-Kremlin newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda, reported on Monday morning “active battles” in two directions near the Donetsk town of Vuhledar as well as Bakhmut, which Russia recently claimed.
It looks like kyiv has yet to move its main forces into battle and may introduce them to a completely different area, Kots added.
Prominent Russian military blogger Semyon Pegov, who blogs as War Gonzo, said Ukrainian forces were advancing near the village of Novodonetske, north of Vuhledar, and managed to move more than a mile into the territory under Russian control.
“There is a tough fight going on,” he said, adding that Ukraine was moving reserve units to the village.
Vladimir Rogov, a Russian official based in the southern region of Zaporizhzhia, said fighting resumed on Monday after reporting an attempted Ukrainian breakthrough near the regional border with Donetsk a day earlier.
Rogov said Ukraine had launched “even larger forces into the attack than yesterday, approaching the attempt to break through on a larger scale and in an organized manner.” There is a fight.
For months, speculation has swirled around when and where kyiv would launch a massive counteroffensive. Ukrainian officials, including President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, were careful not to give details, but continued to say a counteroffensive was imminent.
Some military analysts told NBC News on Monday that it was too early to judge whether the attacks reported by the Russians were, in fact, the start of a major counteroffensive.
Whenever it happens, the Ukrainian push could prove a watershed moment in its bid to fend off the Russians and show the world it has put billions of dollars in military aid provided by its Western allies to good use. .