Top Ukrainian Commander Signals Imminent Counterattack

After months of preparing for a counteroffensive to retake Ukrainian territory captured by Russian troops, Ukraine's top military commander signaled early Saturday that state troops were ready to attack.

“It's time to get back ours,” General Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, Ukraine's top military commander, wrote on a statement.

The outspoken statement, accompanied by a slickly produced video of Ukrainian troops preparing for battle and released on social media, appeared designed to rally a nation tired from 15 months of war and to deepen anxiety within Russia's ranks. But General Zaluzhnyi gave no indication of where and when Ukrainian forces would try to break Russia's hold on the occupied territories.

Another senior Ukrainian official also suggested that a counterattack was imminent.

Oleksiy Danilov, head of Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council, told the BBC in an interview it was released on Saturday that Kyiv troops were “ready” and that a large-scale attack could come “tomorrow, the day after tomorrow or in a week.”

Ukraine has spent months amassing an increasingly powerful arsenal of Western-supplied weapons and training tens of thousands of troops for the campaign, which military analysts say will likely focus on Russian-occupied southern and eastern Ukraine.

There was no public indication of any major troop movements along the broad front Saturday morning. Both Ukraine and Russia have engaged in strong information campaigns using video and social media during the war.

But the statements from General Zaluzhnyi and Mr Danilov come as a growing number of senior Ukrainian officials – including the head of military intelligence – have said in recent days that Ukraine now has what it takes to mount an offensive.

In many ways, military analysts note, a counteroffensive may have already begun.

For weeks, Ukraine appeared to have attempted to set the stage for the campaign and “shape” the battlefield through a series of coordinated strikes deep behind enemy lines aimed at undermining critical Russian logistics operations, degrading Russia's combat capabilities and compromising Moscow's ability to move. troops around the battlefield.

In recent days, the tempo and range of attacks deep inside Russian-held territory has increased. While the Ukrainian military has not explicitly claimed responsibility, local Russian officials in the occupied territories have confirmed attacks in recent days.

Adding to speculation that a retaliatory strike was imminent, internet and telecommunications were cut in parts of Russian-occupied Ukraine late Friday.

NetBlocks, which tracks internet outages around the world, said interrupted internet service in the Crimean peninsula and parts of the Zaporizhzhia region in southern Ukraine — including in the city of Enerhodar, where Russian troops occupy Europe's largest nuclear power plant. Internet service was also down in Berdiansk and Melitopol, two strategically important cities that Russia has turned into military strongholds, according to Netblocks.

“The reason for the internet outage is the interruption in the work of the Russian internet provider Miranda Media, which operates in Crimea,” reporting organization.

The blackout came as Russia and Ukraine have accused each other of preparing a provocation at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, which is not far from the front lines. On Saturday, the morning after Ukrainian military intelligence warned that Russia was preparing to “simulate an accident” at the plant, Ukrainian officials said the night had passed without incident.

Senior Ukrainian officials said that the counteroffensive would not be marked by a single event and would likely feature hoaxes and deception aimed at undermining the morale of Russian troops and influencing Moscow's decision-making.

The mounting anticipation presents its own challenges.

Ukrainian officials have been deliberately vague in outlining their military plans, most likely in the hope of retaining an element of surprise in what has become a widely telegraphed campaign.

At the same time, Ukrainian officials have also tried to temper expectations, warning of a long and bloody fight in the months ahead.

Russia still controls more than 40,000 square miles of land in southern and eastern Ukraine, which makes up about 17 percent of the country, and has months to bolster its defensive positions in anticipation of an escalating counteroffensive.

While Kyiv continues to search for more advanced weapons for the coming fight, senior Ukrainian and Western officials have said in recent days that Ukrainian forces have what they need to launch a counteroffensive.

And the arsenal will continue to grow. A week after President Biden notified US allies that he would allow Ukrainian pilots to train on American-made F-16 fighter jets, a move to finally let other countries provide planes to Ukraine, the first group of about 400 Ukrainian troops began training. in Germany on how to operate and maintain American M1 Abrams tanks, according to the Pentagon.

About 200 soldiers – roughly an armored battalion – on Friday began carrying out what the military called combined arms instructions at a training range. in Grafenwoehr and Hohenfels, GermanyLieutenant Colonel Garron Garn, a Pentagon spokesman, said in a statement.

The instructions cover basic soldiering duties such as marksmanship and medical skills, along with training at the platoon and company levels, and eventually larger exercises involving battalion-sized units facing off against each other.

Another 200 Ukrainian soldiers started training on how to refuel and maintain the tanks, Colonel Garn said.

Ministry of Defense officials previously said that about 31 tanks would be sent to Germany for use in a Ukrainian troop training program that was expected to take 10 to 12 weeks. Battle-ready tanks could reach battlefields in Ukraine by autumn, officials said.

Initially, American defense officials said that the M1 Abrams tank would not arrive in Ukraine until next year. But since January, when the Biden administration reversed its long-standing resistance and announced it would be sending tanks, senior defense officials have said they want to fast-track the timeline.

Like the fighter jets, the delivery of M1 Abrams tanks and trained crews will take months, perhaps too late to have any impact on a Ukrainian counteroffensive.

While the timing of the counteroffensive remains unclear, the statement from General Zaluzhnyi is the most direct indication that the time is near.

The video accompanying his statement was broadcast on national television and quickly spread across social media platforms.

Titled “Prayer for the Liberation of Ukraine” – a reference to a nationalist poem from the 1920s – it features Ukrainian soldiers preparing for battle and vowing to “crush” their enemy.

“Bless our decisive offensive!” army song.