Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky has confirmed that his country has initiated a long-awaited counter-offensive against Russia. He acknowledged that counter-offensive and defensive actions were underway but refrained from providing specific details about the stage or status of the operation.
The escalation of fighting in Ukraine’s southern and eastern regions and speculation about the anticipated push has prompted these comments. Reports indicate that Ukrainian troops have made advancements near Bakhmut in the east and Zaporizhzhia in the south and have conducted long-range strikes on Russian targets.
However, assessing the actual situation on the front lines is challenging as both sides present contrasting narratives. Ukraine claims progress, while Russia asserts that it is repelling attacks.
In Russia’s Kaluga region, which borders Moscow’s southern districts, governor Vladislav Shapsha reported on Telegram that a drone crashed near the village of Strelkovk on Sunday. The BBC has not independently verified this report.
Russian President Vladimir Putin stated in a video interview published on Friday that Ukrainian forces had indeed launched their offensive but had suffered heavy casualties and failed in their attempted advances.
After holding talks with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Kyiv on Saturday, President Zelensky described Putin’s comments as “interesting.” With a shrug, raised eyebrows, and pretending not to know who Putin was, Zelensky emphasized the importance of Russia feeling that time was running out for them. He also mentioned that Ukraine’s military commanders were in high spirits and sarcastically urged Putin to take note of that.
During Trudeau’s unannounced visit, Canada announced an additional 500 million Canadian dollars (£297m) in military aid for Ukraine. A joint statement released after the talks expressed Canada’s support for Ukraine’s eventual NATO membership, contingent upon favorable conditions, and indicated that the matter would be discussed at the NATO Summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, in July.
According to Russian officials, fighting has recently intensified in the crucial southern Zaporizhzhia region. Ukrainian forces are believed to be attempting a southern push to divide Russian forces by breaking through the occupied territory that connects Russia to Crimea.
However, Ukraine’s hopes of progressing in the region may be impeded by severe flooding caused by the destruction of the Nova Khakovka dam last week. Approximately 230 square miles (596 sq km) on both sides of the Dnipro River have been submerged.
President Zelensky announced in his address on Saturday night that 3,000 people had been evacuated from the flooded Kherson and Mykolaiv regions. While water levels had dropped by 27cm, over 30 settlements on the right bank of the river, under Ukrainian control, remained flooded, with almost 4,000 residential buildings still underwater.
NATO and Ukraine’s military have accused Russia of blowing up the dam, while Russia has blamed Ukraine. However, it is highly likely that Russian forces, who controlled the dam, intentionally destroyed it to hinder the crossing of the river by Ukrainian troops as part of their ongoing counter-offensive.