Ukraine Ready For Counteroffensive. Will It Change The Dynamics Of The War?

After months of bloody ground combat, Kyiv says it will push back against Russia “as soon as there is God’s will, the weather and a decision by commanders".
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Ukraine is poised to launch it’s much-anticipated spring counteroffensive within weeks – perhaps even days – in what could be a pivotal moment in the grinding war of attrition since Russia invaded 14 months ago.

What is the state of the war?

Russian forces hold nearly a fifth of the country, including swathes of Ukrainian territory in the east, south and southeast.

The last five months have seen Russian assaults that have secured little new territory despite the bloodiest ground combat of the war. The fiercest battles have been in the eastern Donetsk region, where Russia is struggling to encircle the city of Bakhmut in the face of dogged Ukrainian defence.

People are seen at the site of a residential area hit by a Russian military strike, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in the town of Pavlohrad, Dnipropetrovsk region.
People are seen at the site of a residential area hit by a Russian military strike, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in the town of Pavlohrad, Dnipropetrovsk region.
DNIPROPETROVSK REGIONAL MILITARY via Reuters

In the last three days, Russia has launched two waves of nationwide missile strikes, with the Kremlin apparently reviving its winter tactic of long-range attacks to slow the expected Ukrainian counteroffensive.

Russia unleashed a fresh volley of missiles on Pavlohrad overnight, causing huge blazes in a city in the east, damaging dozens of homes and wounding at least 34 people.

The attack follows Russia killing 23 civilians in a high-rise apartment building in the city of Uman with a missile, part of its first big countrywide volley of air strikes in nearly two months.

Both sides are far apart in their terms for peace.

What is Ukraine planning?

Kyiv is preparing to unleash a counterattack using hundreds of armoured vehicles and tanks donated by allies, and thousands of troops recently returned from training in the West.

On Saturday, an apparent Ukrainian drone hit a fuel storage depot in Sevastopol, base of the Russian navy in Crimea, which Moscow seized in 2014. Kyiv has not directly claimed responsibility but strongly implied it, saying the blaze was part of its preparations for its offensive.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in an interview last week that his country would seek to reclaim the peninsula in the upcoming fightback.

On Friday, Ukraine defence minister Oleksii Reznikov said the country is largely ready to go.

“As soon as there is God’s will, the weather and a decision by commanders, we will do it,” he told an online news briefing.

What have allies provided?

The counteroffensive comes as the cost of military and financial aid to Ukraine continues to grow, and some in the West have questioned how long the support can continue.

Nato allies and partner countries have delivered more than 98% of the combat vehicles promised to Ukraine during Russia’s invasion and war, the military alliance’s secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg said last week, giving Kyiv a bigger punch as it contemplates launching its counteroffensive.

Along with more than 1,550 armoured vehicles, 230 tanks and other equipment, Ukraine’s allies have sent “vast amounts of ammunition” and also trained and equipped more than nine new Ukrainian brigades. More than 30,000 troops are estimated to make up the new brigades.

“This will put Ukraine in a strong position to continue to retake occupied territory,” Stoltenberg said.

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