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Washington Post: US intelligence thinks Ukraine will fail to reach counteroffensive’s key goal

by Dinara Khalilova and The Kyiv Independent news desk August 18, 2023 4:42 PM 2 min read
Ukrainian soldiers take part in a training exercise some 10 kilometers away from the border with Russia and Belarus in Ukraine's northern Chernihiv Oblast on Feb. 2, 2023. (Kyodo News via Getty Images)
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The U.S. intelligence assesses that Ukrainian forces will fail to reach the key southeastern city of Melitopol in this year’s counteroffensive, the Washington Post reported, citing unnamed sources familiar with the forecast.

If the assessment proves correct, Ukraine will not fulfill its principal goal of cutting off the land bridge that connects Russia to the occupied Crimean peninsula.

Ukrainian forces, currently advancing toward occupied Melitopol from the village of Robotyne around 80 kilometers away, will remain outside the city, anonymous U.S. officials suggested to the Washington Post.

Zaporizhzhia Oblast’s Melitopol lies on the crossing of two critical highways and a railway line, serving as a logistical hub for the Russian army in southern Ukraine to move military equipment. The city was occupied shortly after Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

The U.S.’s pessimistic forecast is based on Russia’s ability to effectively defend occupied territory with a phalanx of minefields and trenches, which has reportedly slowed down Ukraine’s advances, the media outlet wrote.

As another reason for Ukraine’s counteroffensive not meeting the allies’ expectations, the officials named Kyiv’s strategy of relying on smaller units to advance in different areas of the front rather than concentrating a large mass of forces on a single breakthrough point.

This approach, which contradicts the Pentagon’s recommendations, has led to Ukranian forces making limited gains in different areas over the summer, but allowed them to reduce the losses, added WP.

According to President Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine had planned to launch the counteroffensive much earlier than in early June to prevent Russia from building up its defenses. The plans were postponed due to the slow progress of Western supplies and training, he told CNN.

Ukrainian armed forces' Commander-in-Chief Valerii Zaluzhnyi told the Washington Post that Ukrainian troops advance daily despite the lack of much-needed supplies, including F-16 fighter jets and artillery ammunition.

Zaluzhnyi criticized those complaining of "slow progress," adding that the counteroffensive is "not a show." President Volodymyr Zelensky also noted that the advance is "slower than desired" but that the campaign is not a movie.

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