Ukraine Situation Report: Counteroffensive Criticism “Pisses Me Off” Says Top General

In a brutally frank interview with The Washington Post, Ukraine’s top military commander chided critics of his nation’s ongoing counteroffensive for their hypocrisy and repeated the oft-voiced call for more arms from the West.

Complaining that Ukraine’s allies would never launch such an endeavor without air superiority, Gen. Valery Zaluzhny told the Post it “pisses me off” to hear the counteroffensive has started slower than expected.

It is an opinion, the Post said, “publicly expressed by Western officials and military analysts and also by President Volodymyr Zelensky, though Zaluzhny was not referring to Zelensky.”

Zaluzhny noted that his troops have gained some ground — even if it’s just 500 meters — every day, he said.

“This is not a show,” Zaluzhny told the Post Wednesday in his office at Ukraine’s General Staff headquarters. “It’s not a show the whole world is watching and betting on or anything. Every day, every meter is given by blood.”

“Without being fully supplied, these plans are not feasible at all,” he added. “But they are being carried out. Yes, maybe not as fast as the participants in the show, the observers, would like, but that is their problem.”

Ukraine needs much more artillery ammunition and fourth-generation fighters like F-16s, Zaluzhny said. You can read more about the F-16 question in our coverage here.

He also acknowledged that some of the donated armor has been lost.

“…we didn’t get Leopards to ride in parades or have politicians or celebrities take pictures with them,” he said. “They came here for the war. And a Leopard on the battlefield is not a Leopard but a target.”

The shortage of artillery shells is a concern Zaluzhny has shared U.S. Army Gen. Mark Milley, the Joint Chiefs Chairman who the Post said is considered a “friend” by the Ukrainian.

Zaluzhny said he relays his concerns to Milley, whom he has grown to deeply admire and considers a friend, several times per week in conversations that can last hours. “He shares them absolutely. And I think he can help me get rid of those worries,” Zaluzhny said, adding that he told Milley on Wednesday how many more artillery shells he needs per month.

Zaluzhny, the Post wrote, is frank with Milley about the consequences: “We have an agreement: 24/7, we’re in touch. So, sometimes I can call up and say, ‘If I don’t get 100,000 shells in a week, 1,000 people will die. Step into my shoes,’” he said.

Artillery shells are becoming an increasingly scarce commodity for both Ukraine and Russia. Kyiv’s NATO allies have also drawn down their own stocks in order to help funnel millions of rounds to the cause. In some cases, it will take years to replenish and expand these stockpiles, efforts of which are underway now.

Ukrainian officials have frequently said the bulk of the counteroffensive is yet to come. Ukraine continues to make small gains at high cost, but the Russians are also suffering significant personnel and equipment losses as well.

Though nearly a month old, this counteroffensive is still in the early phases. We will continue to track its progress.

Before we head into the latest news from Ukraine, The War Zone readers can catch up on our previous rolling coverage here.

The Latest

On the battlefield, Russian Telegram channels closely connected to the Russian Defense Ministry are expressing consternation over progress they claim Ukraine is making along the Dnipro River in Kherson Oblast.

The Kremlin-connected Rybar Telegram channel reported that Russia was forced to fire an Iskander missile at the southern approach to the Antonovsky bridge, where Ukrainian forces have been making some gains, setting up a small bridgehead there, as we reported earlier this week

Video has emerged of a strike at that location, but whether it was caused by an Iskankder is unconfirmed and Ukrainian officials have not commented on the situation.

But the use of such a valuable missile is an indication of how serious the Russians are taking the situation.

The Two Majors Telegram channel painted an even more dire picture.

“Another attempt to clear the area with our infantry and equipment failed. There are dead and wounded on our side. Loss of technology,” Two Majors reported, adding that efforts to reinforce the area have been hindered by Ukrainian remote mining. While not specifying how, it’s very likely that it could be U.S. provided Remote Anti-Armor Mine (RAAM) systems 155 mm munitions, which are fired from howitzers and disperse mines. The U.S. has provided more than 14,000 of those rounds so far.

“For some reason, our fathers-commanders completely fulfill the enemy’s plan to pull our forces into the open area under enemy fire, although the enemy’s forces do not pose a threat in terms of its further advancement,” Two Majors complained. “At present, the enemy continues to hold a small foothold on our coast. Actions on the ground by motorized rifle units of the Russian Armed Forces cause dense enemy artillery fire from its shore. The enemy forces themselves are in shelters under the bridge. The troops are asking for an accurate strike by aviation and missile weapons on the foundations of the Antonovsky bridge from both sides.”

The occupation governor of Kherson Oblast, Volodymyr Saldo, had a more positive take.

“Servicemen of the Dnipro group continue to successfully clear the area near the Antonovsky Bridge from Ukrainian armed formations,” he wrote on his Telegram channel. “Today, a missile from the Iskander complex was struck: 30 militants were killed, and a dozen more were maimed. The rest are hiding on both sides of the bridge in the dachas – they are afraid to stick their nose out. Now artillery is working effectively on them. After it, the special forces of the Dnipro group will begin the final cleansing.”

All this is going on under the fog of war and we can’t verify these accounts. But it is certainly worth noting when staunchly pro-Russian sources are claiming Ukrainian gains.

We are watching this situation closely and will continue to update it as more information comes to light.

During his interview with us yesterday, Ukrainian Maj. Gen. Kyrylo Budanov downplayed the concerns about any threat posed by the presence of Yevgeny Prigozhin and his Wagner Private Military Company being in Belarus. Prigozhin was exiled there in the wake of his aborted mutiny attempt on Saturday.

“Because a massive restationing of the PMC to Belarus is not planned,” Budanov told us. “And because the hub that they’re creating in Belarus is for logistic purposes. Also they will have some office premises and a recruiting center. And that hub is being created for Wagner operations overseas, mostly in Africa.”

But in his interview with the Post, Zaluzhny was also asked about whether the Wagner posed a threat to Ukraine from Belarus. He suggested a modicum of concern.

“I have a lot of fears, and Wagner is among them‚” Zaluzhny told the Post. “And they’re not the only ones. If we start talking about it now, my head will spin. … Our task is to prepare for the worst and most possible scenarios. And we will try to minimize the possible consequences of what could be.”

Separately, Oleskiy Danilov, Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine, Coordinator of the Staff of the Supreme Commander-in-Chief, said in a Tweet Friday that Kyiv is keeping Wagner’s activities in Belarus on its radar.

“The emergence of new threats, including the activities of the so-called PMC “Wagner” is tracked and not removed from the agenda,” said Danilov. “Ukraine carefully studies and analyzes the entire complex of security issues, in particular changes in the movement of Russian troops and equipment on the territory of Belarus and other territories adjacent to Ukraine.”

The White House, meanwhile, is apparently not fully convinced that Prigozhin is in Belarus.

Budanov also suggested to us that Wagner was going to boost its operations overseas, especially in Africa. Today, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov blasted the West for pressuring African and Latin American countries not to do business with Wagner. As we noted earlier this week, the U.S. has imposed significant sanctions on Wagner “actors and facilitators to include in Africa,” Pentagon spokesman Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder told reporters.

The Ukrainian Armed Forces on Friday claimed they destroyed a Russian headquarters and oil and lubricant depot in the Azov Sea port city of Berdyansk, according to Ukrainian Pravda.

The Ukrainian local military administration said on its Telegram channel this morning that “11 explosions rang out in Berdyansk.” A fire “is burning and detonating in the area of ​​the airport Ambulances went in that direction.”

Russian-appointed head of Zaporizhzhia Oblast Vladimir Rogov said the attack was carried out by U.K.-provided Storm Shadow air-launched, conventionally armed cruise missiles. On his Telegram channel, Rogov said the sound of explosions in the above video was the work of Russian air defenses, and the attack was unsuccessful.

While none of this is confirmed, images have emerged in the wake of that attack that appear to show wrecked components of a Storm Shadow or SCALP-EG missile. We have reached out to the British Defense Ministry for comment and will update this story with any information provided.

A year ago, Ukraine finally kicked the Russians out of a small chunk of Black Sea stone known as Snake Island.

Though its strategic significance is debatable because of its vulnerability, it proved to be a hugely important moment for Ukraine. The Russian retreat marked a major emotional victory for Kyiv, furthering showcasing the Putin’s forces were far from invincible.

“This is one of our most significant victories,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said today on his Telegram channel. “Do you remember? Last spring, no one expected from Ukraine that we would be able to implement, in particular, this fundamental defense task: to provide security to the Serpent, and therefore to a significant part of the Black Sea water area. But our soldiers did it. Russian terrorists needed Zmeiny (the Ukrainian name for the island) to destroy the entire South of our country, our beautiful Odessa and other cities. Our soldiers stopped them and expelled them from Zmiyny. Ukraine and Ukrainians are much stronger than anyone thinks about us. Sometimes stronger than we used to think about ourselves.”

overview of snake island_30june2022_wv2
An overhead view of Snake Island from June 30, showing palls of smoke, including above the jetty. Maxar Maxar

The island of course became famous for the Ukrainian Border Guards on the island who reportedly responded to a call to surrender from the Russian Navy cruiser Moskva, then the Black Sea Fleet’s flagship, by saying “Russian warship, go fuck yourself!”

When the Moskva was sunk in April 2022, in an action that Ukrainian and U.S. officials attributed to an attack by Ukrainian Neptune anti-ship missiles, Russian air defenses in the Black Sea were left depleted. This seems to have been at least part of the reason that Russia then sought to beef-up ground-based air defense systems on Snake Island, which were in turn subject to repeated Ukrainian attacks. These left several smaller military vessels sunk or damaged and saw Ukrainian Su-27 Flanker fighter jets and Bayraktar TB2 drones used to strike the island.

When the U.S. and other allies provided Ukraine with armor vehicles, part of the calculation was not just to offer mobile lethality, but also survivability. Videos and images emerging from the battlefield are showing that armor like this Bradley Fighting Vehicle are living up to that requirement by being able to take a hit and save the lives of the crew. You can read more about the Bradley’s survivability in our deep dive here.

Images of another damaged Bradley emerged on social media. As of today, the Oryx open source tracking group says that Ukraine has lost 25 of the 109 Bradleys so far delivered, with 11 destroyed, two damaged and 12 damaged and abandoned. The actual count could be higher because Oryx only tabulates those vehicles for which it can establish visual confirmation. It appears that Oryx updated its count since the Tweet seen below, by the Oryx-connected Naalsio, was posted.

The U.S. is sending dozens of additional Bradleys to replenish Ukraine’s stocks.

Speaking of Oryx, the group’s operator, who is “retiring” from operating the site in October, posted an image of yet another Russian Frankenstinian battlefield concoction, this time apparently an MT-LB with an aircraft rocket launcher AND a Vasilek automatic gun mortar mounted on it.

Images emerged on social media claiming to show a donated Ukrainian Leopard 2A4 main battle tank damaged by a mine, which has been a big issue for Ukraine during its counteroffensive, as Zelensky recently noted.

Mines aren’t just a huge problem for Ukraine. Russia too is also suffering losses as the result of mines, as you can see in this video below.

First Person Video (FPV) drones continue to be a bane for both sides as well, as you can see in this video below of a Russian tank being destroyed by one.

Much has been made out of Ukraine capturing equipment from the battlefield, but the Russian have captured a bunch of stuff too. Like this battle-damaged British Husky Tactical Support Vehicle, which in this video below is giving off serious Clampett-mobile vibes.

Dominoes may get props for its promise to deliver a pizza in 30 minutes, but unlike these Ukrainian soldiers, they don’t deliver to trenches in war zones.

Move over GI Joe, there’s a new soldier doll in town.

Well, in China anyway.

The company, which makes and sells model action figures, has launched a line featuring a 1/6-size figurine of Chechen strongman and Putin ally Ramzan Kadyrov. For a mere $139.95, you can have one too, complete with an “exquisite head carving,” pants, tactical belt, bullet bag, pistol, holster, other assorted items and “fattening clothes.”

The destruction of the Nova Kakhovka Dam over the Dnipro River earlier this month has created widespread problems, reducing water levels, raising concerns at the Zaphorizhia Nuclear Power plant and possibly causing health issues.

But as the water level dropped, historical artifacts are being found. Like this boat, made out of a tree, estimated to be about 1,000 years old.

And finally, in a how of ingenuity and resilience, Ukrainian composer Roman Grygoriv turned a BM-27 Uragan rocket into a string instrument he played with an orchestra. The concert was held in April, but this video, which you can see below, was just posted this week.

That’s it for now. We’ll update this story when there’s more news to report about Ukraine.

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Howard Altman Avatar

Howard Altman

Senior Staff Writer

Howard is a Senior Staff Writer for The War Zone, and a former Senior Managing Editor for Military Times. Prior to this, he covered military affairs for the Tampa Bay Times as a Senior Writer. Howard's work has appeared in various publications including Yahoo News, RealClearDefense, and Air Force Times.