Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said Thursday that Russian forces repelled a Ukrainian attack in Ukraine’s southern Zaporizhzhia Oblast as Western media outlets are reporting Ukraine’s counteroffensive has officially begun.
“At 1:30 am, the enemy made an attempt with up to 1,500 troops and 150 pieces of armor from the 47th mechanized brigade to break through our defense,” Shoigu said, according to the Russian news agency TASS.
“The enemy was halted in all four directions and retreated with heavy casualties,” the Russian military chief said. He claimed that Ukraine lost “30 tanks, 11 infantry fighting vehicles, and up to 350 personnel.”
Shoigu’s claims haven’t been confirmed as Ukrainian leadership is keeping quiet about its offensive plans. A US official told The New York Times that it appeared the “main thrust” of Ukraine’s counteroffensive has begun.
US officials said earlier this week that the Ukrainian offensive likely started as attacks were reported along the front in the eastern Donetsk oblast. But on Thursday, Western media was full of reports that said Ukraine’s counteroffensive has now officially started.
Ukraine’s counteroffensive was expected to focus on the southern Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions to sever the land bridge Moscow had secured from Crimea to the Russian mainland.
The US and NATO have helped prepare Ukraine for its counteroffensive, and some reports say German-made Leopard tanks and US-made Bradley Fighting Vehicles have been spotted near the frontlines in Zaporizhzhia. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley explained on Monday the massive support the US and NATO have provided Ukraine, including “training and ammunition and advice, intelligence, et cetera.”