Ukrainian armoured brigades 'assembling for counter-offensive'

Western officials have stated that the long-awaited counter-offensive against Russia could happen in 'reasonably short order'

Ukrainian forces fire a howitzer towards Russian troops. Western officials have stated that Kyiv's armoured brigades are now moving into assembly areas, preparing to attack. Reuters
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Ukraine’s armoured brigades are “moving to assembly areas”, ready to launch the major counter-offensive against Russia, western officials have disclosed.

The western-equipped force is now poised to attack in “reasonably short order” after being held up by unusually wet weather.

Russian forces had also been “mown down” in scenes similar to the First World War, with more than 20,000 killed in the battle for the city of Bakhmut.

Moscow’s generals are understood to be on an extremely high state of alert, knowing that they have few reserves to stem any breakout along the 1,000-kilometre front line.

And that attack could come very soon.

“We assess that the Ukrainians ready for the counter offensive are now either in or are likely soon to be moving to assembly areas, which would give them access in reasonably short order to where they actually want to have their axes of attack,” a western official said.

Asked to elaborate, he stated that “all the signs are that this is within weeks” but it was “a Ukrainian operation and campaign and very much for them to decide when the time is right”.

“They have amassed forces equipped with western equipment, they have trained personnel ready to attack and potentially succeed against Russian defensive positions,” he added.

Ukrainian officials have been suggesting the offensive would happen imminently for weeks but the official claimed that the “weather has been really bad over the last few days in eastern Ukraine”, and while it was now sunny, there had only been a few days since “quite significant wetness”.

Ukrainian soldiers inside a Bushmaster armoured vehicle near the front line city of Bakhmut. Reuters

The army cannot risk tanks and other armoured vehicles essential to the assault becoming bogged down in mud.

Earlier this week Gen John Allen, former head of US forces in Afghanistan, told The National that Ukraine’s western allies risked a “suboptimal outcome” if they pressured Kyiv into launching the offensive too soon.

Some analysts have speculated that Ukraine might be sitting back watching the Russian establishment wobble after drone attacks on Moscow and hit-and-run raids into Russia.

Moscow said on Thursday that it had thwarted a Ukrainian attempt to “invade” through its south-western border, as Russia pounded Kyiv with missiles, killing three, including a child.

“At about 3.00am (0000 GMT), Ukrainian units comprising up to two motorised infantry companies, reinforced with tanks, attempted to invade,” the Russian defence ministry said.

It used jets and artillery to repel the attacks and prevent Ukrainian troops from crossing over into Russia, it added.

The western official confirmed that Wagner Group mercenaries had handed over control of Bakhmut to the Russian airborne VDV troops, who were said to be dismayed by conducting “line infantry” work.

The town is still littered with the corpses of combatants following the year-long battle for the city that was the site of horrific scenes.

“Is essentially World War One, where we've seen waves of infantry, in many cases unsupported by combined arms, going up against defensive positions and in many cases literally being mown down,” the western official told The National.

The massive casualties would have a “collective psychological impact on the Russian forces themselves” and will also probably affect society once the numbers become known.

“We can't underestimate the significance or the enormity of that for so little gain which actually won't operationally change the overall war,” the official said.

Updated: June 01, 2023, 4:51 PM