Ukraine’s forces have begun “shaping” operations in the south of the country to prepare the battlefield for a significant Ukrainian counteroffensive, two senior US officials told CNN.
Shaping operations are standard military practice prior to an offensive and involve striking weapons systems, command and control, ammunition depots and other targets to prepare the battlefield for planned advances.
According to the officials — who have been briefed on the intelligence — the US believes the much anticipated counteroffensive will include a combination of air and ground operations.
On Monday morning, Ukraine indicated that actions were underway.
“Ukrainian armed forces have started the offensive actions in several directions on the South front towards liberating the occupied territories,” Natalia Humeniuk, a spokesperson for Ukraine’s Operational Command South, told CNN.
“All the details will be available after the operation is fulfilled,” she added.
The plans come as Russia’s war in Ukraine has passed its six-month mark, with US assessments indicating that Russia has been able to deploy fewer units to the frontlines than initially thought, according to a senior US official.
The official said many of the existing units — which Russia organizes into Battlefield Tactical Groups (BTGs) comprising infantry, tanks, artillery and air defense — are deploying below strength, some even at half their normal manpower.
Additionally, the US has been observing Ukrainian forces benefiting from the use of US- and NATO-supplied HIMARS mobile rocket launchers, which have allowed Ukraine to strike and destroy targets in Russian-held territory.