Ukraine launches counteroffensive
Ukraine’s long-awaited offensive in its defensive war against Russia has begun. Kyiv has confirmed military operations and the recapture of several localities in the Donetsk region while Moscow has reported the destruction of several tanks supplied by the West. Commentators assess the situation as it unfolds.
Failure would be a bitter defeat for the West too
The operation is crucial for Ukraine, Der Tagesspiegel insists:
“If the liberators don’t succeed in recapturing larger areas, it’s quite likely that the war will freeze. ... Although in this scenario Russian President Vladimir Putin would have failed in his goal of conquering all of Ukraine, or at least all of eastern Ukraine, about one-fifth of Ukraine’s territory would remain under his control. It would be a simmering conflict that he could escalate as soon as his army has regained the strength to do so. This would be a great success after a war that has been so embarrassing for Moscow so far. And a bitter defeat for the West.”
Jutarnji list analyses the initial success of the advancing Ukrainians:
“Several attacks concentrated along the front in the south and east are also a test for the new Ukrainian arsenal of Western tanks and combat vehicles, as well as tens of thousands of newly mobilised soldiers who have undergone months of training in Europe. ... As expected, the Ukrainians are sustaining losses in the early stages of the offensive, but they have to show results if they want to keep the flow of money and arms coming from the West. Some initial results are visible — in the last 24 hours Ukrainian troops say they have hit four Russian command centres, six troop assembly points, three ammunition depots and five enemy artillery units in firing positions. These reports, however, cannot be independently confirmed.”
Lack of air support makes things difficult
The Ukrainian army faces an enormous challenge, observes 444.hu:
“Despite spectacular successes, it’s still too early to draw conclusions. ... The Ukrainian army is currently trying to realise the most difficult of all combat operations: breaking through established lines of defence. Since the Second World War, only the US and Israeli armies have been successful in carrying out such operations — in wars where their air superiority was unrestricted. ... In such a breakthrough operation, close air support is essential. ... Without it, the armoured units are more vulnerable.”
The high price of freedom
The war will cost many more lives yet, Libération stresses:
“There has without doubt been many casualties already and we know there will be many more, because no matter how sophisticated the equipment, war always exacts a terrible price. The counteroffensive may enable the Ukrainians to win back their freedom, but in exchange the sirens of many ambulances will continue to wail at night in the streets around the central hospital in Zaporizhzhia.”
Irradiated earth policy?
Le Temps fears a nuclear escalation:
“Russia’s latest war crime, with its appalling damage to people and the environment, makes us fear the worst. A Russian defeat could rapidly turn into a scorched earth policy. Because as we’ve seen, Moscow has already resorted to a flooded-earth policy. ... Who can be sure that Vladimir Putin won’t embark on an irradiated earth policy tomorrow? When will the Russian army transfer control of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant to civilians?”