The Russian military claimed to have defeated a large-scale Ukrainian offensive in the Donetsk region, though it is not clear if this push marked the beginning of a long-awaited counter-offensive. Kiev has dismissed the allegations as disinformation by the Kremlin.
Igor Konashenkov, a spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry, said in a video released early Monday that Ukraine had used six mechanized battalions and two tank battalions in an offensive the previous day.
He added that the Ukrainians attacked five points in the Russian-controlled Donetsk region in the east of the country on Sunday.
“The enemy’s goal was to break through what they considered the weakest section of the front,” Konashenkov said. “The enemy did not achieve its goals and did not succeed.”
He claimed that the Russian army killed 250 Ukrainian soldiers.
Kiev has been planning a counter-offensive to retake territory from Russian occupation for several months, backed by supplies of advanced Western weaponry such as long-range Storm Shadow missiles.
The Ukrainian Center for Strategic Communications and Information Security, a government agency, called the Russian allegations a “pseudo-information and psychological operation” aimed at “demoralizing Ukrainians”.
The conflicting military claims between Russia and Ukraine could not be independently confirmed.
Kiev insisted it would not announce any major operations in advance, and urged caution about relaying news of the counterattack from the front.
A Ukrainian military video on social media posted this weekend showed soldiers bringing their fingers to their lips and urging “silence” about military operations.
On the Russian side, Alexander Khodakovsky, commander of a Kremlin-backed volunteer battalion stationed in the Donetsk region, said Ukraine had tried to break through and capture one position, but “suffered significant losses” on Sunday.
He added that the offensive “was not in itself the promised counterattack” but predicted that Ukraine could send more units to the offensive if the campaign was successful.
The Russian Ministry of Defense has long made exaggerated claims of its success.
Its PR-conscious armed forces have come under particular fire in recent weeks after Ukrainian-backed forces exposed tenuous Russian defenses along the front line in the Belgorod region.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder of the notorious Wagner paramilitary group, escalated a months-long public feud with the leadership of the Russian Defense Ministry.
The Defense Ministry said the invasion commander, Valery Gerasimov, who was one of the main targets of Prigozhin’s wrath, was “at one of the front-line command points” during the fighting.