Is Ukraine's counteroffensive outside Kiev overhyped?

AP Photo/Andriy Dubchak

This frontline WaPo report is a healthy reminder that both sides in war lie to boost morale, not just the bad guys.

Except … the Ukrainian claims it details barely qualify as exaggerations of what’s happening on the ground. Two days ago, Zelensky’s office announced that Ukrainian forces had counterattacked west of Kiev and retaken Makariv, a strategically important town located along a major highway into the capital. WaPo sent reporters out there and found that Ukrainian forces had “only” retaken 85 percent of it, per the mayor, and that the Russians were still shelling it regularly, preventing residents from returning.


So, sure, the Ukrainians are guilty of exaggeration. But what made their alleged advance into Makariv newsworthy this week has now been confirmed: Zelensky’s military really does have the ability, it seems, to push the Russians away from Kiev. A month into the war, Putin’s forces are further from their goal of seizing the capital than they were two weeks ago.

[A]s a team of Washington Post journalists passed through the checkpoint on Wednesday, Ukrainian soldiers ordered them to quickly leave the town, warning of incoming Russian rockets or artillery. Minutes later, reporters heard the sound of shells falling. Black plumes of smoke rose over the houses. Soon more blasts followed…

“The military doesn’t control all of Makariv, only partially,” said Mayor Vadim Tokar, standing on the town’s outskirts shortly after the shells landed. “It’s 100 percent no-go for civilians to return.”…

As of Wednesday, he said, Russian forces were still in control of roughly 15 percent of the town, an area they have held for nearly three weeks with little shifting of the front lines. There were no signs Wednesday that any of the roughly 15,000 residents who have fled since the Russian invasion began last month were returning to the town.

Even WaPo acknowledges that Makariv is a Ukrainian success story despite the fact that they haven’t fully reestablished control of the town: “The Russians are trying to use it as a possible entry point to topple the national government in the capital” and that entry point has now been denied to them. A former Ukrainian defense official told NBC that recapturing Makariv would create an artery from Ukraine’s western border into Kiev, allowing the capital to be supplied without Russian interference. And it would “ease pressure on the defenders of Kyiv in the northwest who have faced a difficult Russian offensive, he said, allowing them to address casualties and help trapped civilians.”


And that’s only half the story. Reportedly, the Ukrainians have also mounted a counteroffensive *east* of Kiev that’s also succeeded in pushing the Russians back:

Ukraine advancing from Kiev to the west and the east simultaneously isn’t something anyone expected a month in, needless to say. In fact, there are some reports circulating that the Ukrainians have gained enough ground west of the city to have surrounded Russian forces in the area:


The Bucha City Council also claims that Zelensky’s forces have surrounded their city on all sides. That claim has been disputed, but Ukrainian officials insist that they really have regained a meaningful amount of territory around the capital:

The Belarusian border isn’t far from Kiev to the north. But despite the fact that Putin could use their help at the moment to try to push the Ukrainians back towards the capital, there’s still no sign of Lukashenko’s forces entering the fray.

I repeat a question I asked a few days ago: Is there a point here at which Putin concludes that Kiev is out of reach and decides to redeploy his forces there to the south, assuming they’re able to retreat? Or would that backfire by also freeing up Ukrainian forces in the north to move south and go on offense in hopes of retaking cities like Kherson and Mariupol? Putin would be loath to concede Kiev in any case, fearing a loss of prestige. And keeping a large Russian force around the city has the virtue of forcing the Ukrainians to stay put there and defend it, preoccupying their military.

But if that force really does end up being surrounded and cut off from resupply, suddenly Russia is looking at a debacle in the north. They might lose a chunk of their army and end up with the Ukrainians free to move south in a broader counteroffensive.


Either way, the fact that Russia has already reached this point after just a month of fighting must be giving its commanders pause about how long this war can be sustained:

I’ll leave you with this snippet from Russian state television. The good news is that they’re showing the devastation of Mariupol to Russian viewers. The bad news is that they’re claiming the Ukrainians are responsible for it, and their gullible audience is likely to believe them.

Join the conversation as a VIP Member

Trending on HotAir Videos