Kiev's long-promised counteroffensive has met 'stiff resistance,? senior American officials told CNN
The Ukrainian military has suffered "significant" casualties in its faltering attempt to mount a counteroffensive against Russian forces, US officials told CNN on Thursday. While Kiev has kept quiet about its losses, Moscow estimates that the offensive has already cost Ukraine almost 5,000 lives.
Ukrainian troops hoping to break through Russia's defensive lines have met "greater than expected resistance from Russian forces," the American network reported, citing anonymous "senior US officials."
CNN's sources described how Russian forces used anti-tank missiles and mortars to put up "stiff resistance" and inflicted "significant" casualties, as the Ukrainians struggled to get their Western-provided vehicles through densely-laid minefields.
After months of delays and mixed messages from Kiev, Ukraine's counteroffensive began on Sunday with an attack by six mechanized and two tank battalions along five sections of the frontline near Donetsk, and in other regions to the north and south. Further attacks followed, and although pro-Ukrainian sources described these thrusts as "probing" attacks, it was clear by the beginning of this week that the counteroffensive had begun in earnest.
The fiercest fighting took place on Wednesday night along the frontline near Zaporozhye, where the Russian military has spent several months constructing multiple lines of minefields, trenches, gun emplacements, and anti-tank obstacles. The Ukrainian 47th mechanized brigade attacked with a total strength of up to 1,500 troops and 150 armored vehicles, but Russian troops - backed by artillery and air support - repelled the assault, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said on Thursday.
Key to Russia's defense has been its suppression of Ukraine's air defense systems, allowing its fighter jets and attack helicopters to operate with impunity over the frontline.
The minister claimed that during a two-hour battle, the enemy lost 30 tanks, 11 armored personnel carriers and up to 350 troops. According to Shoigu's daily updates, Ukraine has lost around 4,995 soldiers and almost 100 tanks since Sunday.
Despite the apparently colossal losses, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told CNN earlier this week that Washington believed "that the Ukrainians will meet with success in this counteroffensive." However, General Mark Milley, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, urged caution, telling the network on Monday that it was "too early to tell what outcomes are going to happen."
"Everyone knows perfectly well that any counteroffensive in the world without control in the skies is very dangerous," Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky said in a Wall Street Journal interview on Saturday, adding that "a large number of soldiers will die" during the operation.