Ukraine: Counteroffensive Difficult, Lengthy Process, Says Top NATO Official


Ukrainian forces are right to proceed cautiously during a “difficult” counteroffensive against Russia, NATO’s top military official, Admiral Rob Bauer, told reporters in Brussels on Monday. 

“The counteroffensive, it is difficult,” he said, adding that Ukrainian forces are right to proceed cautiously. “People should never think that this is an easy walkover. It will never be,” he said, noting that the Russian defense lines are sometimes up to 30 kilometers deep, and Ukrainian forces face landmines and other obstacles. 

Bauer drew a comparison between breaking through these obstacles and fighting in Normandy during World War II. “We saw in Normandy in the Second World War that it took seven, eight, nine weeks for the allies to actually break through the defensive lines of the Germans. And so, it is not a surprise that it is not going fast,” he added. 

Satellite images reviewed by Reuters in April showed Russia had built extensive fortifications, trenches, anti-vehicle barriers and other obstacles to slow any Ukrainian advance. 

Bauer’s comments echoed remarks by General Mark Milley, the top U.S. military officer, who said on Friday the counteroffensive would be very difficult, very long and “very, very bloody.” 

Bauer said Ukrainian forces were right to be cautious to avoid high casualties as they probed for possible breakthroughs and remarked that Ukrainian forces should not face pressure or criticism for not moving more quickly. “This is a very, very difficult time for them,” he said. 

Bauer also cautioned that Russia’s armed forces are bruised but by no means beaten in the Ukraine fighting. “They might not be 11-feet tall, but they are certainly not 2-feet tall,” the top NATO military officer told reporters. “So, we should never underestimate the Russians and their ability to bounce back.” 

The admiral made these comments as U.S. President Joe Biden and his NATO counterparts are set to endorse a major shakeup of the alliance’s planning system at a summit in the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius, next week. 

Heavy fighting 

At least two people were killed and over 19 others were injured by a Russian drone attack on the northern Ukrainian city of Sumy on Monday. 

According to Sumi’s regional administration, four drones struck an official building and two residential ones. 

Ukraine’s state emergency service posted images from the attack showing mangled buildings. Debris was strewn on courtyards while rescue workers tried to put out a fire. 

Several hours after the morning strike, another air-raid alert sounded in the Sumy region that more drones could be on the way. 

Earlier Monday, Kyiv’s military reported shooting down 13 of 17 Iranian-made Shahed drones launched by Moscow overnight on several parts of Ukraine. 

Ukraine said Monday its forces had retaken 37-square kilometers of territory in eastern and southern Ukraine during the past week. 

Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said on Telegram that Ukrainian troops were advancing in the Bakhmut area in the east, while Russia was attacking in Lyman, Adviivka and Mariinka. 

Maliar said there was “heavy fighting going on” in those areas. 

Most of the Ukrainian gains were in the southern part of the country, Maliar said, with 28-square kilometers regained during the past week. She added that Ukraine’s military was carrying out offensive operations in the Melitopol and Berdyansk areas. 

In a tweet, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy noted that the situation on the front line has been difficult. But he said, “We are making progress. We are moving forward, step by step!” 

Crime of aggression 

A new center opened Monday in The Hague focused on investigating and gathering evidence about potential Russian crimes of aggression toward Ukraine in connection with the conflict. 

The International Centre for the Prosecution of the Crime of Aggression against Ukraine is set up to work alongside the International Criminal Court. The ICC can prosecute war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide but does not have a mandate for crimes of aggression. 

The U.S. Justice Department said last month that the new ICPA “will play a critical role in the ecosystem for prosecuting atrocity crimes committed in Ukraine.” 

As part of its investigations, the ICPA will examine the role Russian officials have played in the war. 

Russia denies committing atrocities, targeting civilians or committing war crimes in Ukraine despite widespread evidence documented by United Nations investigators and other human rights groups.


The VOA is the Voice of America

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