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.
The US believes the Ukrainian counteroffensive, which has long been anticipated, will include a combination of air and ground operations.
Ukraine indicated Monday morning that the actions were underway.
“Yes, (Ukrainian 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, adding, “All the details will be available after the operation is fulfilled.”
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, or BTGs, comprising infantry, tanks, artillery and air defense — are deploying below strength, some even at half their normal manpower. The US has also 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.
Neither Ukrainian nor US officials are revealing the main targets of the expected counteroffensive. In recent weeks Ukrainian forces have been making advances around the key southern city of Kherson, which is currently occupied by Russian forces. Kherson is considered crucial to the control of Ukraine’s southern coast and access to the Black Sea.
Ukraine’s nuclear operator Energoatom said Friday that the plant had been reconnected to Ukraine’s electricity grid a day after the plant went offline for the first time in its history.