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KYIV — Ukraine dismissed claims that Russia has repelled its counteroffensive on Monday, insisting that its long-awaited assault has not yet begun.
The Russian defense ministry on Monday reported that Kyiv’s forces had attempted to storm several Russian positions in parts of the southern Donetsk front on Sunday. According to Moscow, Russia repelled what it called Ukraine’s counteroffensive, pushing Kyiv’s troops back to their original positions on Monday and imposing significant losses in manpower and equipment.
Kyiv, meanwhile, dismissed the report as untrue. “Moscow is already actively involved in repelling … a global offensive that ‘does not yet exist,’” tweeted Mykhailo Podolyak, the adviser to the head of the office of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
Ukrainian military officials declined to officially comment on what they called “Russian disinformation,” saying they did not want to legitimize it. A press officer for one of Ukraine’s mechanized brigades told POLITICO that in the coming weeks, Kyiv’s armed forces would be sticking to a “no-comments” policy when it comes to revealing details about the counteroffensive.
“Words are very unnecessary, they do only harm,” Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said in a tweet on Sunday, quoting English electronic band Depeche Mode. On the same day, Ukraine’s armed forces published a video, showing its soldiers urging Ukrainians not to spill their country’s secrets, and stating that there would be “no announcement about the start” of the counteroffensive.
Ukraine was similarly cryptic last fall, when the country launched its surprise major counteroffensive in Kharkiv, after hinting it would instead be focusing its efforts on Kherson.
For now, Kyiv is continuing its defensive operations, including several counterattacks, some of them successful, according to Ihor Solovey, head of the Ukrainian state Center for Strategic Communications.
Solovey argued that Moscow’s claims about repelling the Ukrainians in Donetsk were designed to distract from its prolonged efforts to take Bakhmut, which Russia’s forces claim to have overrun after months of heavy fighting — which Kyiv denies.
The Russians are working to “divert attention from this direction and misinform — both to cover up their current failures and in advance of future ones,” Solovey said. “The epicenter of the current action is the Bakhmut direction.”
Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar on Monday said Ukraine was retaking territory around Bakhmut: “We are moving along a fairly wide front. We are successful. We occupy the dominant heights. The enemy is on the defensive.”
Serhiy Cherevatyi, spokesman for Ukraine’s Army Command East, also told POLITICO that the Ukrainian army has been successfully counterattacking in Bakhmut.
The brouhaha comes a day after Ukraine’s Armed Forces Strategic Communications Center (Stratcom) warned that Russia was “planning to intensify the spread of unreliable information about the combat operations of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Russian propagandists will spread false information about the counteroffensive, its directions, and the losses of the Ukrainian army.”