Ukrainian government officials are trumpeting the success of their offensive in the Kharkiv region saying they have retaken about 1,200 square miles of territory from Russia, which launched an unprovoked and brutal invasion of its neighbor in February.
A senior U.S. military official speaking on background said Ukrainians “are obviously fighting hard.”
The military official said that “Ukrainian forces have very likely taken control of Kupiansk and Izyum in addition to smaller villages. Notably, we’re aware of anecdotal reports of abandoned … Russian equipment, which could be indicative of Russia’s disorganized command and control.”
After six months of war, Ukraine launched the counteroffensive into the region east of Kharkiv. “On the ground in the vicinity of Kharkiv, we assess that Russian forces have largely ceded their gains to the Ukrainians and have withdrawn to the north and east, many of these forces have moved over the border into Russia,” the senior military official said.
Ukraine has also launched a more limited offensive in the south around Kherson, and the official assessed the push in the south is making more limited gains.
Neither official would comment too much on the offensives because the Ukrainians are actively engaged in combat operations.
Russian forces are still shelling areas of Ukraine.
At the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the International Atomic Energy Agency has reported the last reactor has been shut down and put into its safest state. Still, there continues to be shelling in the area near the plant and the vicinity of Kherson.
On the maritime side, Russia has about a dozen ships underway in the Black Sea, including Kalibr-capable ships that have contributed to strikes in Ukraine and are supporting the Russian invasion.
However, grain shipments from Ukrainian ports continue.
U.S. officials assess the airspace over Ukraine remains contested, with the Russians conducting increased airstrikes over the weekend. Many of those strikes are aimed at civilian targets, “which have contributed to widespread blackouts,” the official said.
The senior defense official said the recent Ukraine Defense Contact Group Meeting at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, brought together 48 countries and two international organizations and put to rest the idea that Russian President Vladimir Putin could simply outwait the West.
One objective of the meeting, the official said, was to ensure Ukraine has the systems it needs to defend itself from the Russian invaders. “And at this meeting, there was a strong focus as well on what is necessary to provide Ukraine capabilities over the medium to longer term,” she said.
This commitment is a key message to Russia. Putin needs “to understand that the international community stands behind Ukraine, and that Russia can’t count somehow on holding out and waiting until the international community weakens,” the official said.
This second part shows the international community is thinking in terms of energizing and coordinating the defense industrial bases of these countries to ensure an effective defense for Ukraine and deterrence to Russia.
This longer-term support will include training for Ukrainian military forces including basic training for new recruits and more complicated maneuvers involving larger units.
The United States and other nations are already training Ukrainian troops on some of the more modern capabilities that have been delivered. This includes the maintenance, repair and sustainment of these capabilities.
“We would certainly continue that area of training,” the official said. “The leaders discussed … the next logical step in that progression, which is higher level unit training.”