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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Russians open counterattack in southern village that Ukraine said it had recaptured


Ukrainian soldiers with the national police near a destroyed compound in a village near the front line in Zaporizhzhia, southeastern Ukraine, on June 12, 2023.

By Andrew E. Kramer


After a week of giving ground to the Ukrainian army in the opening phase of Kyiv’s counteroffensive, Russian forces struck back Tuesday in an area where Ukraine had earlier announced it had retaken several villages.


The Russians attacked with aviation and artillery barrages, a spokesperson for the Ukrainian military said. One village at the center of the fighting, Makarivka, was reduced to ruins through the course of the day.


The Russian attack came after thunderstorms had swept over southern Ukraine, muddying the terrain and complicating operations for both armies. Ukraine is in the early stages of a counteroffensive operation to reclaim territory seized by Russia in the country’s south.


After announcing it had recaptured a series of farming villages over the weekend, Ukraine’s military said it had achieved only minimal gains Tuesday as its forces continued to probe Russian defenses and to repel the Russian attack on the village of Makarivka.


Ukraine has pushed forward in at least two locations in southern Ukraine, but there are no indications that it has breached the dense Russian defenses, which include minefields, trenches for infantry and concrete barriers to stop tanks.


As Ukrainian troops push forward, they leave their own defensive trenches and move farther from the protection of air defense systems. While shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles can be quickly brought up to the new position, Ukrainian troops cannot easily move more sophisticated, vehicle-mounted systems, lest they be put at risk from Russian artillery. That leaves the advancing troops more open to Russian aerial attacks, as the Russian counterstrike at Makarivka suggests.


The slow-moving fighting has been in keeping with what military analysts had suggested should be expected at the start of Ukraine’s counteroffensive. As Ukraine hunts for a place to drive a wedge through Russian-occupied land in the southeast, it has yet to commit the bulk of the forces that Western allies have trained and equipped for the counteroffensive.


Russia has built multiple lines of fortifications on the plains where Ukraine is attacking and has heavily mined the ground to slow Ukraine’s tanks and armored vehicles.


At least eight American-made Bradley Fighting Vehicles were abandoned by Ukrainian troops or destroyed in the early days of the counteroffensive, based on videos and photographs posted by pro-war Russian bloggers and verified by The New York Times.


A spokesperson for the Ukrainian military’s general staff, Andriy Kovalev, told a television news broadcast Tuesday that Ukrainian forces had advanced about 500 to 1,000 yards in some locations in the south, although he did not specify where.


A spokesperson for the military in the south, Valeriy Shershen, posted on Facebook an account of the Russian attack on Makarivka.


After Ukrainian troops had moved into the village, he said, Russia counterattacked with aviation and tried to fire a barrage from one of Russia’s most powerful conventional weapons, a tracked vehicle nicknamed the Sunstroke, which fires thermobaric rockets that detonate with tremendous force. It was not clear if the weapon was fired or only brought into position to do so.


Shershen said Ukrainian marines were still holding out in the village Tuesday afternoon.


Vladimir Rogov, a Russian-appointed official in southern Ukraine, said on the Telegram app Tuesday that Russian helicopters had targeted Ukrainian soldiers in the same area, near the town of Velyka Novosilka, in the Donetsk region, where Ukraine had begun attacking last week.


“Our night counterattacks began,” Rogov wrote.


Pro-war Russian bloggers, who often provide accounts of fighting more quickly than official Russian announcements, also said Monday that Russia had launched counterattacks in the same area.

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