Russia’s defense ministry has claimed it has fought off a large-scale attack by Ukraine in the south-eastern Donetsk region.
It said it killed 250 Ukrainian troops and destroyed 16 tanks, three infantry fighting vehicles and 21 armored combat vehicles in the process.
It claimed the Ukrainians tried to break through Russian defenses in what Kyiv saw as the most vulnerable part of the frontline but that it “did not achieve its tasks, it had no success”.
Ukraine’s daily update by its general staff makes no mention of the claimed major offensive in Donetsk but does say there were 29 combat clashes in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
Donetsk and neighboring Luhansk make up Ukraine’s Donbas region, an industrial heartland when Russian-backed separatists seized control of two territories and declared breakaway republics in 2014.
Shortly before the full-scale invasion in February 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin recognized the two separatist territories as independent states, ordering the deployment of Russian troops there in defiance of international law.
Ukraine planning counter-offensive against Russia
Ukraine has been planning a counter-offensive for months. But it has wanted as much time as possible to train troops and to receive military equipment from Western allies.
Officials in Kyiv have warned against public speculation over the offensive, saying it could help the enemy.
“Plans love silence. There will be no announcement of the start,” the defense ministry said in a video posted to Telegram on Sunday.
Ukrainian Armed Forces ask for silence in the information space 🇺🇦 pic.twitter.com/xoFHubylpV
— Anton Gerashchenko (@Gerashchenko_en) June 4, 2023
Last month the US approved the future supply of F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine.
Until now US President Joe Biden had effectively vetoed the transfer of F-16s, with US officials citing long pilot training times and the risk of escalating the 15-month-old conflict with Russia.
In February when Biden was asked by reporters whether he would send F-16s to Ukraine, he simply said “no.”
National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan insisted there was no about-turn in US policy but the decision was based on the “exigencies of the conflict”.
“We’ve reached a moment where it’s time to look down the road and to say ‘What is Ukraine going to need… to be able to deter and defend against Russian aggression?’
“F-16s, fourth-generation fighter aircraft, are part of that mix,” he said, adding that Ukraine had committed to not use US military equipment to hit targets inside Russia.
Last week Russia blamed Ukraine for drone strikes that hit Moscow injuring at least two people and damaging several buildings.
The Russian military says eight drones were used in the strikes, all of which were shot down by air defense or taken out with signal jamming technology.
Two drones were intercepted over the Kremlin earlier this month but this was the first time that unmanned aerial vehicles hit residential areas of Moscow, which is located hundreds of kilometers from the front lines in Ukraine.