Russian President Vladimir Putin said Ukraine had increased its frontline attacks in recent days, while a Ukrainian official said Kyiv was making gradual but steady progress in reclaiming its land.
Three independent media sites reported on Wednesday that Kyiv had initiated a new phase of its ambitious counteroffensive aimed at ejecting Russian forces from the approximately 20% of Ukrainian territory still under Russian occupation.
Asked about these reports, Yuriy Sak, an adviser to Ukraine’s defence minister, told Reuters that “there is nothing new” happening at front lines. “In the south, we are moving forward slowly but surely,” he said.
Meanwhile, Putin told Russian television that every Ukrainian assault had been beaten back, and that Moscow’s forces had inflicted significant losses on their opponents.
Kyiv and Moscow’s defence ministries offered contradicting accounts of fighting.
Russia’s defence ministry said Russian forces had repelled Ukrainian attacks around the village of Klishchiivka near Bakhmut, and north of Robotyne on the front line in the Zaporizhzhia region, Russian state news agency TASS reported.
However, Ukrainian Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Maliar wrote on Telegram that Ukrainian forces were “gradually moving forward” near Bakhmut, and that fighting was ongoing near Klischiivka, Kudriumivka and Andriivka.
Maliar also said Ukraine had beaten back Russian attacks on two northern fronts near Kupiansk and Lyman.
Reuters could not independently verify the battlefield reports.
Ukraine’s counteroffensive has thus far moved slowly, only recapturing several hundred square kilometers, a tiny fraction of the territory still under Russian control.
However, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy hailed “very good results” on the battlefield in an address on Tuesday evening, promising to give details later.
One of the few areas where Kyiv has enjoyed success so far has been along the Mokri Yaly river in southeastern Ukraine, where Ukrainian troops have captured several settlements and are now nearing the Russian-held village of Staromaiorske.
Aleksandr Khodakovsky, an influential Moscow-backed separatist commander in eastern Ukraine, posted an angry message on his Telegram channel on Wednesday complaining about heavy shelling of Staromaiorske over several days followed by a Ukrainian assault which had made some gains.
Sak said there was fighting ongoing near Staromaiorske but the village was “not yet” under Ukrainian control.