Ukrainian forces have suffered losses in heavy equipment and soldiers as they met greater than expected resistance from Russian forces in their first attempt to breach Russian lines in the east of the country in recent days, two senior US officials tell CNN.
One US official described the losses – which include US supplied MRAP armored personnel vehicles as “significant.”
Ukrainian forces managed to overrun some Russian forces in the east around Bakhmut. However, Russian forces, armed with anti-tank missiles, grenades and mortars, have put up “stiff resistance,” with their forces dug into defensive lines that are several layers deep in some areas and marked by minefields that have taken a heavy toll on Ukrainian armored vehicles.
A Ukrainian Army soldier jumps over a gap in a defensive trench outside Kostyanynivka, in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine, on May 24.
US and western officials see signs Ukraine's counteroffensive is beginning
US and Western officials have been bracing for the counteroffensive for months, moving to shore up Ukraine’s defenses ahead of its start. This week, Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said an offensive was “taking place in several directions.”
“It is not only about Bakhmut. The offensive is taking place in several directions,” Maliar said. “We are happy about every meter. Today is a successful day for our forces.”
Both US officials say the losses are not expected to impact the larger planned Ukrainian counteroffensive. US and western officials long expected the counteroffensive to take time and put Ukrainian personnel and equipment, including Western-supplied systems, at high risk.