Milley: Ukraine counteroffensive ‘far from a failure’

The Ukrainian counteroffensive may be moving at a slower pace than originally expected, but it is “far from a failure,” Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley said Tuesday. 

Kyiv’s counteroffensive began roughly six weeks ago but so far has failed to retake significant territory from the Russians.  

But Milley — who said Ukrainian forces are “preserving their combat power” by not sending in their best soldiers — said the movements have been slowed down by the need to steadily clear mines set by the Russians. 

“This is going to be long, it’s going to be hard, it’s going to be bloody,” Milley warned, but said the effort “is far from a failure, in my view.” 

“That’s a different war on paper and real war,” Milley said. “These are real people in real machines that are out there really clearing real minefields and they’re really dying. So when that happens, units tend to slow down … in order to survive, in order to get through.”

Ahead of the counteroffensive, Russian troops had several months to create an “extensive security zone” against Ukrainian troops, for which they created complex minefields, strung barbed wire and dug trenches, Milley said.  

But the Ukrainians are helped by Russia’s military command structure being thrown into disarray after Wagner Group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin’s failed coup against military leaders.

Wagner Group troops had been heavily involved in Russia’s attempt to take the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut as well as fighting elsewhere in the country. But with thousands of such soldiers apparently relinquishing their weapons to Moscow’s military, it’s unclear how the new command structure will shake out, with Milley calling it “confusing at best.” 

“The morale is low. And now recently because of the Prigozhin mutiny, the command-and-control apparatus at the strategic level is certainly confusing at best, and probably challenging in many, many other ways,” Milley said.  

Milley said the Russians have also suffered “significant” officer casualties. 

Kyiv could also soon get a boost from the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, which earlier Tuesday discussed ramping up Ukraine’s ammunition as it met virtually. 

“We also discussed plans to ramp up production at both the national level and the multinational level through the European Union’s important initiative to produce more ammunition,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who spoke alongside Milley, told reporters. 

The group was formed to keep Ukraine in constant supply of weapons in the war. But the West is reportedly struggling to keep up with Ukraine’s long-term ammunition needs as the counteroffensive is expected to stretch longer than originally thought.  

After the group’s virtual meeting, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov on Twitter lauded the gathering as demonstrating “unwavering support for Ukraine.” 

Tags Lloyd Austin Mark Milley Oleksii Reznikov Russia-Ukraine war Ukraine counteroffensive Yevgeny Prigozhin

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