June 06, 2023 08:11
Fighting is raging in several sections of Ukraine's front line in the Zaporizhzhia region and Donetsk Oblast, signaling that the long-expected Ukrainian assault may be underway.
During an interview in Kyiv, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Ukraine is weapon-ready for its much-anticipated counteroffensive against Russia but remained mum as to whether it already has begun.
Kuleba expressed confidence that Ukraine's planned assault against Russia will turn the tide of the war and will allow Ukraine to reclaim its territories from Russia. He said such a victory will usher Ukraine into NATO. Membership of the military alliance would "probably" only be possible for Ukraine after the end of active hostilities, he said.
Ukrainian forces have been increasing offensive operations against Russia on the border of Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk provinces. But Kyiv dismissed Russian reports that the counteroffensive has begun and that the Russian military foiled a major Ukrainian offensive in the Ukrainian region of Donetsk.
"We do not have such information, and we do not comment on any kind of fake," a spokesperson for the Ukrainian armed forces' general staff said in response to a question from the Reuters news agency.
In a tweet, Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak cautioned against trusting Russian information on the fighting in Ukraine. "Russian news reports have long since become a separate virtual meta-universe," he wrote.
Earlier Monday, Russia claimed its forces had repelled a large-scale Ukrainian attack in the Donetsk region of southern Ukraine. Russia's Defense Ministry said Ukraine's goal was to break through what they considered the weakest area along the front lines, but that it "had no success." The Ukrainian attack, Russia said, included six mechanized battalions and two tank battalions. Ukraine dismissed these claims as misinformation.
◆ Ukrainian Gains: Bakhmut
In his nightly video address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy affirmed Ukrainian wins around Bakhmut and attributed Russian claims of an ongoing Ukrainian counteroffensive to Russian histrionics.
"We see how hysterically Russia perceives every step we take there, every position we take," he said. "The enemy knows that Ukraine will win. They see it. They feel it thanks to your strikes, soldiers, and in particular in Donetsk region," he added, addressing Ukrainian fighters directly.
The Ukrainian advances around Bakhmut were also confirmed Monday by Russian mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin. The Wagner boss said that Ukrainian forces had retaken part of a village near Bakhmut after his mercenary group had handed its positions there to Russian troops.
"Disgrace!" Prigozhin exclaimed in an audio message on his Telegram channel. "Now part of the settlement of Berkhivka has already been lost, the troops are quietly running away," he said, urging Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and the chief of the general staff, Valery Gerasimov, to come to the front to rally the troops. "Come on, you can do it!" he said in his message. "And if you can't, you'll die heroes."
Denis Pushilin, the top Moscow-backed official in the Russian-occupied part of the Donetsk region, which includes Bakhmut, told Russian state television the situation on the city's flanks was "under control" but "very difficult."
◆ Ukrainian Children
Zelenskyy commemorated Sunday the hundreds of children who have died "as the result of Russian aggression" since 2014, including a 2-year-old girl in the Dnipro region late Saturday.
"Today in our country is the day of remembrance for children who died as a result of Russian aggression since 2014," he said. "Children who would have been alive if a bunch of thugs in the Kremlin, in Moscow, hadn't considered themselves chieftains who allegedly had the right to decide the fate of nations."
Zelenskyy said 485 children have lost their lives in Russian attacks. "This is a number that we can officially confirm, knowing the data of each child," he said. "The real number is much higher." Zelenskyy also noted the 19,505 Ukrainian children who have been deported to Russia and are still "in the hands of the enemy." The United Nations says that around 1,000 other Ukrainian children have been wounded.
Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen met with President Joe Biden at the White House on Monday to discuss support for Ukraine and training of Ukrainian pilots on fourth-generation fighter jets.
"When war has returned to our continent, in Europe, it is so important that our allies and our friends -- that we stick together, that we are united," Frederiksen said in the Oval Office. "And we have truly been for now 15 months, in Ukraine. We will, of course, continue, from a Danish perspective, our very strong, strong support to Ukraine, but I'm looking forward to work even closer with you on defense and securities."
When asked about the possibility that she may become the first woman to lead the NATO alliance as its secretary-general, Fredericksen said she did not want to speculate on the matter. She was also asked by journalists about a Vatican-led peace mission, saying, "I think all of us are very interested in peace," but "it takes two to tango," and "we still need a signal from Russia."
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