Ukraine worries spring offensive will not live up to expectations

Ukraine fears its long-awaited counter-offensive will NOT live up to the hype and will put pressure on them to negotiate with Putin

  • Fears grow that limited success in offensive will undermine case for sending aid
  • Ukraine is positioned to counter after Russia’s failed winter offensive last year 

Senior Ukrainian officials have raised concerns the long-anticipated offensive to reclaim occupied territories in the south and east of the country could fall flat.

After a failed Russian winter offensive led to stalemate and a war of attrition, all eyes are on Ukraine to turn the tide and hit hard into depleted Russian lines.

But Ukraine’s Defence Minister has warned that raising expectations could lead to ’emotional disappointment’.

Oleksii Reznikov said: ‘The expectation from our counteroffensive campaign is overestimated in the world. Most people are waiting for something huge.’

As Pentagon leaks reveal US planners doubt Ukraine’s ability to muster an attack, some fear a marginal victory could weaken the West’s case for sending vital munitions to Ukraine, pushing the country to negotiate surrender terms with Putin.

Zelensky summarised last Monday in an interview with The Washington Post that ‘the more victories we have on the battlefield, frankly, the more people will believe in us, which means we will get more help.’ 

Ukrainian servicemen of the 10th Mountain Assault Brigade ‘Edelweiss’ fire a D-30 howitzer towards Russian troops at a position in a front line near the town of Soledar, 6 May 2023

Smoke rises from buildings in this aerial view of a Bakhmut hellscape in the east, 26 April 2023

Map shows contested regions as of 7 May 2023 based on Institute for the Study of War analysis

Russia’s initial invasion of Ukraine last year had limited success beyond the areas in the south and east close to its border, many already established with Russian support since the 2014 invasion of Crimea.

Ukraine was able to garner massive support from the West, with the US and UK sending advanced missile systems to support counter-offensives in the north and south.

READ MORE: America fears Ukraine’s spring offensive will fall flat: Leaked documents reveal Pentagon’s warning that Kyiv’s attack will ‘fall short’ amid shortages of newly-trained troops and anti-aircraft missiles

Reznikov explained last week: ‘We inspired everywhere because the perception was that we will fall [within] 72 hours.’

In the months that followed, Russia re-expanded its goals to retake Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, which remain contested along the frontlines.

After some Russian successes, the war slowed down through the winter. 

Russia prepared a dramatic offensive into Ukraine as experts warned the weather could grind advances to a halt and see thousands of soldiers freezing to death.

Bleak footage showed the realities of trench warfare as the war became a ‘hell of attrition’, increasingly seeing the use of World War I-style ‘human wave’ tactics.

With the direction of the war now changing again, Ukraine now looks poised for a counter-offensive to recover some of its territories.

Many of the details remain secret but Ukraine will seek to push through the contested regions in the east and south that have been pinned under artillery fire for months.

Cities like Bakhmut in the Donetsk Oblast of eastern Ukraine have seen months of intense fighting between opposing factions, with civilian areas in-between razed during the clashes.

With the Russian lines now fortified by extensive trench networks and artillery  support, experts warn that it will be difficult to push the Russians back to their pre-invasion borders – when Russia held parts of Luhansk, Donetsk and the illegally annexed Crimean Peninsula.

Leaked documents from the Pentagon last month suggested that Ukraine lacked the firepower to sustain an effective offensive into the contested regions, picking up on ‘force generation and sustainment shortfalls’.

The leaks predicted Ukraine would have only modest success in achieving its aims, to break Russia’s land connection to the Crimean peninsula in the south while exploiting weaknesses to reclaim contested territories in the east.

Despite international efforts to support Ukraine, the document warns that ‘enduring Ukrainian deficiencies in training and munitions supplies probably will strain progress and exacerbate casualties during the offensive.’ 

Veterans in Ukraine were said to be worried that new troops were arriving without proper training.

Leaks also suggested Ukraine would run out of S-300 anti-air missiles by the start of May without action, hindering the ability to hold off Russian advances.

This report was a break from President Biden’s public reassurances of Ukraine’s military successes.

A firefighter works at the site of a resort area hit by a Russian missile strike in Odesa, 8 May 

Yesterday, it was reported that Russia had taken heed of the offensive as evacuation orders were given to move people out of 18 settlements in the Zaporizhzhia region.

Ivan Fedorov, the mayor of Melitopol in Zaporizhzhia Oblast, said that the order had caused chaos and five-hour long queues of cars at the checkpoint into Crimea.

The official warned a humanitarian crisis was ‘growing’ as shops stopped receiving goods, hospitals closed and threats had been made to cut off power and water.

Meanwhile, UN officials warned of a potential ‘severe nuclear accident’ at the power station at Enerhodar if fighting were to ramp up in the region.

Rafael Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, warned the situation is ‘becoming increasingly unpredictable and potentially dangerous.’ 

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