‘The enemy is amassing’: Ukrainian army officials give unvarnished account of the battlefield

A Ukrainian artillery crew with the Bureviy Brigade fires on a Russian position, in the Luhansk region of Ukraine, Jan. 13, 2024. After a Ukrainian summer counteroffensive in the south that fell far short of objectives, and with Russian troops currently on the attack and Western military aid less assured than in the past, the country's prospects are looking bleak. (Finbarr O'Reilly/The New York Times)

A Ukrainian artillery crew fires on a Russian position in the Luhansk region of Ukraine, Jan. 13, 2024.

A series of comments by Ukrainian military officials and spokespeople on Saturday provided an unvarnished assessment of Ukraine’s current position on the battlefield, describing offensive Russian operations along much of the front line.

Fighting is intense in the northeast along a stretch of territory where the regions of Kharkiv and Luhansk meet.

Earlier this week, Ukraine announced it had withdrawn its forces from the village of Krokhmalne to take up more advantageous defensive positions on higher ground.

Reports suggest Russian forces continue to press in the area.

A readout from the Army General Staff on its Facebook page said Ukrainian forces had faced down 13 attacks on the settlements of Tabaiivka and Stelmakhivka, to the northwest and south, respectively, of Krokhmalne.

Commenting on fighting there, a spokesman for Land Forces Command told Ukrainian television, “The enemy is focusing on a large number of artillery attacks, trying to advance.”

These small settlements, about 100 kilometers (62 miles) east of Kharkiv, lie close to a major north-south waterway, the Oskil river, and were all liberated by Ukrainian forces in the late summer of 2022, after almost six months of Russian occupation.

A Ukrainian serviceman prepares 155-mm artillery shells at a position near a front line, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Zaporizhzhia region, Ukraine January 14, 2024. REUTERS/Stringer

A Ukrainian serviceman prepares 155-mm artillery shells near the front line in Zaporizhzhia, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, on January 14, 2024.

Further southeast, the area around Bakhmut, which was the overwhelming focus of Russia’s winter offensive exactly a year ago, Ukrainian forces also report coming under increased pressure.

Describing the posture of Russia’s forces to the southwest of the city, around the largely destroyed villages of Klishchiivka and Andriivka, Sergeant Oles Maliarevych of the 92nd Separate Brigade told Ukrainian television: “The enemy is amassing forces … they assault every day.”

He highlighted the huge threat now posed by drones, the impact of which on the battlefield has grown significantly over the past year. The Russians, he said, have significantly more drones than Ukraine, including drones equipped with night vision.

Klishchiivka and Andriivka represent the easternmost edges of Ukraine’s modest territorial gains around Bakhmut, the land reclaimed in September as part of Ukraine’s counteroffensive in the second half of last year.

The sense that Moscow’s troops are looking to win back the small pockets of territory recaptured by Kyiv since June was also brought out by an army spokesman with responsibility for operations to the south, in the Zaporizhzhia region.

Attempts by Ukraine over the summer to push south from the town of Orikhiv towards Tokmak, seen as a key first step in an eventual move to break Russia’s land corridor to Crimea, only made it as far as Robotyne, a little over 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) south.

Now, the spokesman suggested, it was Russia more on the front foot.

“All in all, the invaders are very active, they have increased the number of offensive and assault operations. For the second day in a row, they have been conducting 50 combat engagements daily. The enemy is active in all directions,” Oleksandr Shtupun said.https://botakbrewok.com/

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