Whatever happened to Ukraine’s spring counteroffensive? For the best part of six months, the prospect was keenly anticipated inside and outside Ukraine, as the move that would determine the course of the conflict, and – many hoped – send Russian forces packing. Now, not so much. As summer starts to give way to autumn, some basic questions about the counteroffensive hang in the air. Has it been, and gone? Did it happen at all? If it did, what was the plan? And will similar talk accompany the arrival of spring 2024?
These are not easy questions to answer, not least because the information coming from both sides is deficient. Ukraine understandably keeps its future military movements close to its chest and treats casualty figures as a state secret. Reports from Russia are either blocked in much of the West or widely distrusted. Access for journalists to the front line is both dangerous and increasingly controlled by Ukraine’s media managers.
There are perhaps only two conclusions that can be reached with any confidence. The first is that, in so far as there has been a Ukrainian counteroffensive, it began later and has proceeded much more slowly than had been envisaged. We know this because none other than President Zelensky has periodically said so, and national war leaders tend not to underplay their troops’ achievements.
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