Ukrainian forces began “shaping up” operations in southern Ukraine to prepare the battlefield for a major Ukrainian counteroffensive, two senior U.S. officials briefed on the intelligence told CNN.
Make-up operations are standard military practice prior to an offensive and involve striking weapons, command and control systems, ammunition depots, and other targets to prepare the battlefield for anticipated advances.
The United States believes the long-awaited Ukrainian counteroffensive will include a combination of air and ground operations.
Ukraine said Monday morning that actions were ongoing.
“Yes, (Ukrainian forces) have launched offensive actions in several directions on the southern front with a view to liberating the occupied territories,” Natalia Humeniuk, spokeswoman for Ukraine’s Southern Operational Command, told CNN, adding: “Full details will be available after the operation is completed.
The plans come as Russia’s war in Ukraine has passed its six-month mark, with US assessments indicating that Russia has been able to deploy fewer units to the frontlines than initially thought, according to a senior American official.
The official said many existing units – which Russia organizes into Battlefield Tactical Groups, or BTGs, comprising infantry, tanks, artillery and air defense – are deploying below strength, with some even at half their normal strength. The United States also observed that Ukrainian forces benefited from the use of HIMARS mobile rocket launchers provided by the United States and NATO, which enabled Ukraine to strike and destroy targets in the territory. under Russian control.
CNN reported last week that US and European officials say Ukraine successfully used a method of resistance warfare developed by US special operations forces to retaliate against Russia and bog down its vastly superior military. The concept of exploiting resistance was developed in 2013 following Russia’s war with Georgia a few years earlier, but its value was not realized until after the invasion of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula. by Russia in 2014. It provides a blueprint for small nations to resist and effectively confront a larger neighbor who has invaded.
Neither Ukrainian nor American officials reveal the main targets of the expected counter-offensive. In recent weeks, Ukrainian forces have advanced around the key southern city of Kherson, which is currently occupied by Russian forces. Kherson is considered crucial for controlling Ukraine’s southern coast and access to the Black Sea.
Ukrainian and Russian forces have also been engaged in heavy fighting in recent days around the nuclear plant – the largest in Europe – in the city of Zaporizhzhia.
Ukrainian nuclear operator Energoatom said on Friday that the plant was reconnected to the Ukrainian power grid a day after the plant was taken out of service for the first time in its history.