The main bulk of Ukraine’s latest big counter-offensive in its war against Russia has not yet been deployed, the commander of the country’s ground forces has reportedly said.
Colonel general Oleksandr Syrskyi has called for patience from the international community, explaining that his forces are poised to be unleashed when the weakest points of Vladimir Putin’s defences are exposed.
Ukraine’s much anticipated counter-offensive got underway earlier this month after it assembled 12 new brigades, including nine equipped by its Nato allies.
But only three of them are understood to be engaged in fighting so far as Ukraine’s more than year-long war of attrition with enemy forces rages on.
Progress since the counter-offensive was launched has been slow, with the liberation of eight villages and Putin claiming to be responsible for heavy losses among Ukrainian troops.
Colonel general Syrskyi said Putin’s generals had anticipated where Ukrainian forces would be at their strongest but, he told the Guardian: “Everyone wants to achieve a great victory instantly and at once, and so do we. But we have to be prepared to have this process take some time because there are a lot of forces massed on each side, a lot of materiel, and a lot of engineered obstacles.
“I want to say that our main force has not been engaged in fighting yet, and we are now searching, probing for weak places in the enemy defences. Everything is still ahead.”
Russia has launched attacks in a number of areas including Kupiansk in the north-eastern region of Kharkiv, and Lyman farther east.
Speaking of the tense and complex military situation, Colonel general Syrskyi said Russia is attempting to “seize the initiative” and there had been “hard fighting” in the Serebryansky forest near Bakhmut in Donetsk oblast, with Russia having relocated key forces from the south.
Mindful not to underestimate Putin’s troops, he said they had predicted “the most dangerous directions of our movements”, adding that they have built up strong defences in those regions which are proving difficult to break down.
However, Colonel general Syrskyi said he is confident that a breach in Russia’s defences would be identified and exploited by Ukraine’s forces.
The Ukrainian reserves include Challenger 2 tanks supplied by the UK. To date, the only time a tank in this class has been destroyed during operations was by friendly fire from another Challenger 2 in Basra, Iraq, in 2003.
Adressing members of the British public and the UK Government, Colonel general Syrskyi said: “In conclusion, I want to tell you a big, big thanks, about the support, about your assets and about all that you do for our army and for our people. Together we are stronger.”