Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has said the Ukrainian military needs more time before launching its long-awaited counteroffensive, warning that doing it too early would result in a lot of casualties.
“We can advance with what we’ve got and I think we can be successful but we will lose a lot of people, I think that is unacceptable,” Zelensky told BBC. “We need to wait, we need a bit more time.”
Zelensky said Ukraine was still awaiting the delivery of some Western weapons. “They will reinforce our counteroffensive and most importantly they will protect our people. We are expecting armored vehicles, they arrive in batches,” he said.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the Russian mercenary force Wagner Group, accused Zelensky of “lying” and claimed a Ukrainian offensive was in “full swing.” According to RT, a Russian war correspondent also said Ukraine’s counteroffensive has begun, citing attacks near the eastern Donbas city of Bakhmut and operations elsewhere on the front.
According to SouthFront, which publishes daily map updates of the battlefield, Ukrainian forces did make some more gains on the outskirts of Bakhmut. However, the battle of Bakhmut has been raging for months, and the assaults do not necessarily mean Kyiv has launched a wider counteroffensive. SouthFront also reported that Russian forces made small gains in the city streets of Bakhmut.
For their part, the Russian Defense Ministry denied reports that Ukraine had broken through its defenses in several locations and said the only heavy fighting was around Bakhmut. “Reports by certain Telegram channels of ‘breaches of defenses’ in several places along the line of contact are not accurate,” the ministry said.
Leaked documents and US assessments have indicated Washington doesn’t believe Ukraine can regain significant territory in its counteroffensive, and Ukrainian officials have been trying to lower expectations. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his British counterpart, James Cleverly, expressed on Tuesday that the Western powers would provide indefinite support regardless of the outcome.