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Home News For a counterattack, Ukraine has formed eight new \”storm\” brigades, according to The Guardian.
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For a counterattack, Ukraine has formed eight new \”storm\” brigades, according to The Guardian.

Photo by Breno Machado on Unsplash

Eight new Ukrainian brigades of soldiers have been formed to take part in a future counteroffensive amid growing speculation about its timing and whether it can succeed in inflicting a serious defeat on the Russian invaders.

The Ukrainian interior ministry said on Tuesday it had “fully formed” the initial “storm” brigades, comprising up to 40,000 troops, but added they would need further training before being ready to take part in fighting.

Ihor Klymenko, the interior minister, said in an interview the troops would be re-equipped and the instruction process would take another two to three weeks before they could be tasked with “appropriate offensive assault operations” alongside the Ukrainian army.

Questions had been raised about how successful the recruitment process had been for the storm force, amid concern that the pool of Ukrainians willing to fight was diminishing as the war reaches the 15-month mark.

Both sides remain engaged in attritional fighting across the eastern front, particularly around Bakhmut, where Ukraine retains a foothold, despite nearly a year of Russian attacks in and around the small industrial city.

On Monday, the US estimated more than 20,000 Russian soldiers had been killed and more than 80,000 injured in just five months of fighting in Ukraine, mostly around Bakhmut, where Moscow’s forces have had to fight from building to building.

Russia rejected the claim on Tuesday, saying the figure had been “plucked from thin air”, and added that Washington had no way of obtaining the correct data. Battlefield casualties are difficult for third parties to estimate, but the figure gives a broad indication of the intensity of the fighting.

The US and other western allies do not estimate Ukrainian casualties publicly, saying it is sensitive information that could undermine an ally. But leaked secret briefing documents estimated the toll in February had reached between 15,500 and 17,500 killed in the war so far.

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the commander of the Wagner paramilitary group, claimed on Tuesday that a Ukrainian commander, Maj Gen Ihor Tantsyura, the head of the country’s territorial defence forces, had been killed on the way to Bakhmut by an artillery strike.

But this was swiftly rejected by Ukraine a few hours later. “We officially deny this statement. We do not comment on any spewing of enemy propaganda. Everyone is alive and well,” a spokesperson for the territorial forces said in a statement given to Ukrainian television.

Earlier, Prigozhin had said Wagner shelling had “destroyed an armoured car” in which Tantsyura “was probably located”. The car was driving from the nearby Ukrainian-held village of Chasiv Yar to Bakhmut, he added.

Col Gen Oleksandr Syrskyi, commander of Ukraine’s land forces, said he had visited Bakhmut, where he said “we made a number of necessary decisions aimed at ensuring effective defence and inflicting maximum losses on the enemy”.

In a video of his visit, where he also handed out awards to soldiers, the commander said: “We give our reserves an opportunity to prepare and we are preparing for further actions ourselves.”

Ukraine’s strategy is to inflict heavy losses on Russia as it gradually advances in Bakhmut. The leaked Pentagon documents indicated it had thrown in reinforcements to prevent the city from being encircled while it gradually builds up a force capable of mounting a counterattack as the weather improves.

The same leaked documents said that a war game exercise concluded that Ukraine needs 12 fresh brigades to break through, comprising three of its own and nine trained and kitted out with western Leopard and other tanks, armoured vehicles and other Nato-standard equipment.

It is not clear if the newly formed storm force, which is tasked to assist the regular army, is part of the brigades required or additional reserves. Although formed by the interior ministry, Klymenko said, the force is under control of the defence ministry once deployed.

Force members are all volunteers, comprising a mixture of raw recruits, police, and some veterans of previous fighting with Russia, although to conduct offensive operations a higher degree of training is generally considered necessary.

Russia is also preparing for the next phase of the war, hoping it can prevent Ukraine from any meaningful breakthrough and consolidate its hold on the swathe of territory it has seized in the east and the south.

The defence minister, Sergei Shoigu, said Russian arms companies had been told to rapidly increase the “pace and volume of production” and in particular double the output of high-precision missiles. The success of the invasion depends on “timely replenishment”, he said on state television.

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