Salem Radio Network News Saturday, September 23, 2023


Russia says it thwarts major attack in Ukraine but loses some ground

By Pavel Polityuk

KYIV (Reuters) – Moscow said on Monday it had thwarted a major offensive against its forces in eastern Ukraine, but Ukrainian officials dismissed the report and both sides said the Ukrainian military had advanced elsewhere along the front line.

It was unclear whether the attacks represented the start of Ukraine’s long-heralded counteroffensive against Russia’s invasion, and Ukrainian officials sidestepped questions on the matter.

Russia’s defence ministry said Ukraine had attacked on Sunday morning with six mechanised and two tank battalions in southern Donetsk, where Moscow has long suspected Ukraine would seek to drive a wedge through Russian-controlled territory.

“On the morning of June 4, the enemy launched a large-scale offensive in five sectors of the front in the South Donetsk direction,” the defence ministry said in a statement posted on Telegram at 1:30 a.m. Moscow time (2230 GMT).

“The enemy’s goal was to break through our defences in the most vulnerable, in its opinion, sector of the front,” it said. “The enemy did not achieve its tasks, it had no success.”

Asked to comment, a Ukrainian military spokesperson said: “We do not have such information and we do not comment on any kind of fake.”

Ukrainian deputy defence minister Hanna Maliar said Russian assertions about a Ukrainian counteroffensive were meant to distract attention from losses Moscow is taking around the long-contested eastern city of Bakhmut.

In a Telegram post, Maliar said Ukraine was “shifting to offensive actions” in some areas along the front line but dismissed suggestions this was part of a major operation.

Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told Reuters on Monday that Ukraine now had enough weapons for a counteroffensive but declined to comment when asked whether it had begun.

Further north near Bakhmut, Ukrainian forces were reported to have been “moving forward” by the commander of Ukraine’s ground forces, Oleksandr Syrskyi.

An armed forces video showed Russian positions under fire and Russian mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin said Ukrainian forces had retaken part of the settlement of Berkhivka, north of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine, calling it a “disgrace”.

Prigozhin’s private Wagner army captured Bakhmut last month after the longest battle of the war and handed its positions there to regular Russian troops.

A purported radio address by Russian President Vladimir Putin was broadcast to three regions bordering Ukraine telling residents Ukrainian forces had crossed the border, mobilisation had begun and they should flee, independent media reported.

“All of these messages are an utter fake,” Russian state-owned news agency RIA cited Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying.

Kyiv denies sending any troops into Russia but pro-Ukrainian forces have repeatedly crossed into one of the regions, Belgorod, in recent days and on Sunday said they had captured some Russian soldiers.


Russia’s defence ministry released video of what it said showed several Ukrainian armoured vehicles in a field blowing up after being hit.

Reuters was able to confirm the location of two clips near Velyka Novosilka, a village west of Vuhledar in the southern part of Donetsk province, by the road layout, terrain, trees and other foliage that matched satellite imagery of the area. Reuters could not independently verify the other clips or the date the videos were filmed.

“There is a tough fight going on,” wrote prominent Russian military blogger Semyon Pegov, who blogs under the name War Gonzo, saying Ukrainian forces were attacking in the area.

The defence ministry said Russian forces killed 250 Ukrainian soldiers and destroyed 16 tanks, three infantry fighting vehicles and 21 armoured combat vehicles.

Reuters was not able to verify the figures. Both sides have exaggerated casualties suffered by the other.

The daily report from Ukraine’s General Staff said only that there were 29 combat clashes in Donetsk and Luhansk provinces of eastern Ukraine.


Russia now controls at least 18% of internationally recognised Ukrainian territory and has claimed four more regions of Ukraine as Russian territory after annexing Crimea in 2014.

For months, Ukraine has been preparing a fightback which officials in Kyiv and CIA Director William Burns have said will pierce Putin’s hubris.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy told the Wall Street Journal in an interview published on Saturday that he was ready to launch it, but tempered a forecast of success with a warning that it could take some time and come at a heavy cost.

The success or failure of the counteroffensive, expected to be waged with billions of dollars worth of advanced Western weaponry, is likely to influence the shape of future Western diplomatic and military support for Ukraine.

Putin sent troops into Ukraine on Feb. 24 last year in what the Kremlin expected to be a swift operation, but its forces suffered a series of defeats and had to move back and regroup in swathes of the country’s east.

For months, tens of thousands of Russian troops have been digging in along a front line that stretches for around 600 miles (1,000 km), bracing for a Ukrainian attack expected to try to cut Russia’s so-called land bridge to the Crimean Peninsula.

The Kremlin says the West is fighting a hybrid war against Russia to sow discord and ultimately carve up its vast natural resources, allegations that Western leaders deny.

Ukraine casts the invasion as an imperial-style land grab by Russia and vows to eject every last Russian soldier.

(Additional reporting by Max Hunder and Dan Peleschuk; writing by Guy Faulconbridge in Moscow, Lidia Kelly, David Ljunggren and Philippa Fletcher; editing by Nick Macfie, Mark Heinrich and Hugh Lawson)


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