Russia’s military has claimed to have defeated a large-scale Ukrainian attack in the Donetsk region, although it is not clear whether the push marks the start of a long-awaited counter-offensive. Kyiv dismissed the claims as Kremlin disinformation.
Igor Konashenkov, Russia’s defence ministry spokesman, said in a video released early on Monday morning that Ukraine used six mechanised and two tank battalions in an attack the day before.
He added that the Ukrainians had attacked five points in the Russia-controlled Donetsk region in the east of the country on Sunday.
“The enemy’s goal was to break through what they saw as the most vulnerable part of the front,” Konashenkov said. “The enemy did not achieve its goals or have success.”
He claimed Russia’s army killed 250 Ukrainian soldiers.
Kyiv has been planning a counter-offensive to win back territory from Russian occupation for several months, backed by supplies of advanced western weaponry such as Storm Shadow long-range missiles.
Ukraine’s Center for Strategic Communications and Information Security, a government agency, described the Russian claims as a false “informational and psychological operation” intended to “demoralise Ukrainians”.
Russia and Ukraine’s conflicting military claims could not be independently confirmed.
Kyiv has insisted it will not announce any major operations in advance, urging caution about reporting news on the counter-offensive from the front.
A Ukrainian military social media video posted this weekend showed soldiers holding their fingers up to their lips urging “silence” about military operations.
On the Russian side, Alexander Khodakovsky, commander of a Kremlin-backed volunteer battalion based in the Donetsk region, said Ukraine had attempted a breakthrough and captured one position, but “took significant losses” on Sunday.
He added that the attack was “not in itself the promised counter-offensive” but predicted Ukraine could send more units to attack if the push was successful.
Russia’s defence ministry has often made inflated claims of its success.
Its PR-conscious armed forces have been under particular fire in recent weeks after Ukraine-backed forces exposed weak Russian defences along the frontline in Belgorod region.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, founder of the notorious paramilitary group Wagner, has also stepped up a months-long public spat with the Russian defence ministry’s leadership.
The defence ministry said the invasion’s chief commander, Valery Gerasimov, who has been one of the main targets of Prigozhin’s ire, was “at one of the frontline command points” during the fighting.