US expects Ukrainian counteroffensive in May, claims report


New Delhi: Washington expects Kiev to launch a counterattack against Russian troops in May, using the weapons that NATO countries have been sending to Ukraine, according to a report citing unnamed US officials.

“US military aid packages going back four or five months have been geared toward what Ukraine needs for this counteroffensive,” a Politico report quoted a source as saying on condition of anonymity.

According to the report, Kiev is preparing the operation even as its manpower and resources are being drained by its continued clinging to the Donbass city of Artyomovsk, which it calls Bakhmut.

The city, which senior US officials assessed has only symbolic significance, became the scene of some of the most intensive fighting between Russia and Ukraine this year.

While both sides reportedly suffered significant casualties fighting for Artyomovsk, Kiev lost some of its most experienced troops, the report added.

US officials have suggested that Ukraine should pull out of the city, which President Vladimir Zelensky declared a fortress.

US officials are more focused on getting Ukraine ready for a major spring offensive to retake territory, which they expect to begin by May.

With the advice unheeded, America is now urging Ukrainian troops to conserve artillery munitions, the report explained.

Sense of urgency

On Wednesday, Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin projected a sense of urgency after a virtual meeting of the multinational Ukraine Defense Contact Group, saying that “Ukraine doesn’t have any time to waste.”

“We have to deliver swiftly and fully on our promised commitments,” Austin said. “That includes delivering our armored capabilities to the battlefield and ensuring that Ukrainian soldiers get the training, spare parts and maintenance support that they need to use these new systems, as soon as possible.”

Behind closed doors, according to the report, US officials have been pressing Kyiv to conserve artillery shells and fire in a more targeted fashion. This is a particular concern in Bakhmut, where both sides are expending munitions at a rapid pace.

“Some in the Pentagon think that they are burning up ammunition too fast,” Politico quoted retired Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, former commander of US Army Forces Europe, as saying.

“Excuse me, they’re in a massive fight for the survival of their country against an enemy that has huge advantages in artillery ammunition and is not letting up,” Hodges added.

Ukraine yet to zero in on strategy

“Kyiv has not yet settled on a strategy,” Politico quoted US officials as saying, but it has essentially two options: push south through Kherson into Crimea, or move east from its northern position and then south, cutting off the Russian land bridge.

The first option is not realistic, officials said, as Russia has dug in its defenses on the east side of the Dnipro River, and Ukraine does not have the manpower for a successful amphibious operation against that kind of force. The second is more likely, officials added.

Hundreds of Western tanks and armored vehicles, including for the first time eight armored vehicles that can launch bridges and allow troops to cross rivers, are en route to Ukraine for the offensive. The US and European partners are also flowing massive amounts of ammunition and 155mm shells, which Ukraine has identified as its most urgent need.

While US officials are careful not to appear to tell Kyiv how to fight the war, Pentagon leaders said Wednesday that the equipment and training being provided will enable Ukraine to win the war — where and when it chooses to do so.

With inputs from agencies

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US expects Ukrainian counteroffensive in May, claims report
US expects Ukrainian counteroffensive in May, claims report
ASE News
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