Ukraine’s Defense Ministry says it is skeptical of U.S. intelligence assessments that Ukraine’s counter-offensive will fail to reach Melitopol and cut off Russian land bridge to the occupied Crimea, Defense Ministry official Oleksii Kopytko said on Facebook on Aug. 18.
It is a “new creation” from the authors of “the Russians will seize Kyiv in 72-96 hours,” Kopytko wrote, referring to earlier claims that Russia would quickly be able to seize the Ukrainian capital.
The US intelligence assessment was published by U.S. newspaper the Washington Post on Aug. 17. It stated, in particular, that the Ukrainian army “will remain several miles outside of the city” of Melitopol. The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden administration is also concerned with the offensive actions near Bakhmut, which it thinks could loosen the focus of the counter-offensive in the south, the article says.
“Among the especially interesting reasons for ‘not-liberating’ (Melitopol) are the Ukrainian army’s involvement in activities near Bakhmut, as well as the desire of Ukrainian commanders to reduce losses by using the tactics of (fighting in) small groups,” Kopytko wrote.
“I try to follow the train of thoughts of such writers. Should the Ukrainian army leave Bakhmut, or do something else? Where should they retreat? Maybe, they should retreat to the other bank of the Dnipro River? Or maybe they know how we can stop Russians in Bakhmut/Avdiyivka/ Mariinka, etc. so they won’t go further, without fighting?”
He also said that it would be better to not pay attention to any “anonymous sources in intelligence,” “media reports,” or anything else that is still strongly affected by Russian propaganda.
The one thing that could prevent the Ukrainian army from achieving its goals is a lack of weapons, Kopytko said.
“All this speculation is akin to an inverted pyramid of swapped causes and consequences: why should we provide them with weapons if they don’t liberate Melitopol. Then when they don’t supply weapons, they see the expected result of not liberating Melitopol. Then they claimed to have foreseen such an outcome,” he added.
The Ukrainian counter-offensive: Latest
The latest thrust of Ukraine’s counter-offensive is toward Ukraine’s southeast, U.S. newspaper the New York Times reported on July 27. The counter-offensive operation is made more difficult by the large areas of mined land and relentless enemy artillery fire.
Earlier, on Aug. 4, Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said Ukrainian forces had breached the first line of Russian defenses in southern Ukraine in some areas of the front.
Ukrainian Armed Forces Commander-in-Chief Valerii Zaluzhnyi said that Ukrainian forces “continue to create conditions for advancement, step by step.”
Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said that the counter-offensive is behind schedule, but is going according to plan.
Ukrainian forces liberated the village of Urozhayne in Donetsk Oblast on Aug. 16, and were seeing successes south of the village the next day, as well as consolidating their positions around the earlier-liberated village, Ukraine’s military reported.
A total of nine settlements were liberated in June, and the village of Staromayorske in July.