UKRAINE’S SUMMER COUNTEROFFENSIVE began in earnest in the first week of June. This followed months of intense fighting around Bakhmut, where Putin’s forces – led by Yevgeny Prighozhin’s Wagner mercenaries – were halted in a faltering and extremely costly Russian assault in the Donetsk Oblast.
In the aftermath of the savage – but ultimately unsuccessful – Wagner-led offensive around Bakhmut, Prighozin led his mercenaries on a wild advance towards Moscow, halting briefly in Rostov on Don. Prighozin demanded that Putin hand Russian military commander General Valery Gerasimov and Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu over to his paramilitaries for summary treatment.
Alamy Stock Photo A portrait of Yevgeny Prigozhin is seen at the makeshift memorial near the Red Square in the center of Moscow after his plane was shot down. Alamy Stock Photo
This extraordinary development – falling just short of a coup attempt – happened in late June, just as Ukrainian forces were shaping and developing their counteroffensive against Russian positions. As I predicted at the time, Prighozin’s challenge to Putin’s authority would lead directly to his death just over a week ago.
The aftermath of Prighozin’s challenge to Putin and the subsequent and ongoing purge within the Kremlin and the wider Russian military provides some context for the current progress and prospects for Ukraine’s counteroffensive.
First of all, President Zelenskyy’s counteroffensive has been painfully slow. I use the word ‘painful’ as any gains made by Ukraine have come at a massive human cost. Ukraine does not publish its casualties, but in conventional military operations, the attrition rate among attacking forces is generally higher than that of defending troops in heavily fortified, static positions.
Since June, Ukraine has maintained offensive operations along the entirety of the 1000 km front – from Kherson in the west, with heavy fighting around Robotyne in the Zaporizhzhia Oblast. Further east, Ukraine continues to mount probing attacks around Bakhmut and is rapidly preparing potential defensive operations in Luhansk and Kharkiv Oblasts – where Putin has concentrated forces for a possible assault on Kupyansk.
Ukraine has made some progress across this extended front. Just recently, Zelenskyy’s forces........