Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Saturday appeared to confirm that his country’s much-anticipated counteroffensive against Russia’s invasion has begun, but he said Ukraine would refrain from giving details about the operation.
“Counteroffensive and defensive actions are taking place in Ukraine; at which stage I will not talk in detail,” Zelenskyy said at a joint press conference in Kyiv on Saturday with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who was on an unannounced visit to Ukraine.
“I am in touch with our commanders,” the Ukrainian leader was quoted as saying. “Everyone is positive.”
Zelenskyy’s comments came after Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed that Kyiv’s long-expected counteroffensive was already failing. Reports earlier this week said the counteroffensive was under way, with Ukraine battling to retake territory occupied by Moscow’s forces.
In his nightly address late Saturday, Zelenskyy thanked Ukrainian troops on the front lines but gave few details about the state of combat. “Thanks go to our soldiers. To everyone who is on the front line, in positions, at combat posts, and on combat missions,” he said.
“I thank everyone who is taking a stand and who is moving forward,” the Ukrainian president said.
The British Defense Ministry said on Saturday that Ukraine had conducted “significant” operations in several eastern and southern areas of the country in the last 48 hours. “In some areas, Ukrainian forces have likely made good progress and penetrated the first line of Russian defenses,” the ministry said in a tweet. “In others, Ukrainian progress has been slower,” it said.
“Russian performance has been mixed,” the ministry added.
Fighting has escalated in recent days in the southern Zaporizhzhia region, with Ukraine forces reported to be trying to regain access to the Sea of Azov, the BBC reported. Ukraine’s efforts to advance in the area could be hindered by flooding in the south of the country after the Nova Khakovka dam was destroyed.
Canada’s Trudeau reaffirmed his country’s political and financial support for Ukraine in battling the Russian aggression, committing about $375 million in new military aid.
Trudeau was more circumspect in backing Kyiv’s ascension to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. “Canada supports Ukraine to become a NATO member as soon as conditions allow for it,” according to a statement released during the visit.
Putin’s all-out invasion of Ukraine, now in its 16th month, will be at the top of the agenda at a June 15-16 meeting of NATO defense ministers in Brussels. The gathering will be a prelude to next month’s NATO leaders’ summit in Lithuania, where the alliance will again have to confront the issue of Ukraine’s membership bid.
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