Ukraine war

Putin may seize more Ukraine land near Russia to prevent further strikes

Ukraine's recent push marks Kyiv's most rapid advances in several months. (Photo: Viacheslav Ratynskyi/Reuters)

Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia, has hinted that he may order his forces to attempt to seize more land in Ukraine to defend Russia's bordering territory, and he has claimed that Ukrainian forces have suffered "catastrophic" losses in a new counter-offensive.  

In some of the most detailed comments he has made about the conflict in recent months, the Russian leader stated that he was not considering a new mobilization, as many Russians had feared, but did not rule out the possibility.

Moreover, he reiterated Russia's allegation that Ukraine was responsible for destroying a dam on the Dnipro River that caused massive flooding in the country's south last week.

Mr. Putin's remarks at an open meeting with military journalists and bloggers followed Kyiv's assertions that Ukrainian forces had captured a handful of villages during the initial phases of the counter-offensive.

Overnight, at least eleven persons were killed by Russian missile strikes in central Ukraine, prompting the meeting, which lasted more than two hours.

Mr. Putin stated that the Ukrainian counteroffensive had failed.

He claimed that Ukraine had lost 160 tanks and more than 360 other armored vehicles since the new assault began, while Russia had lost 54 tanks.

These assertions were not readily verifiable. Typically, Ukrainian officials do not remark on losses.

Referring to alleged Ukrainian incursions into Russia and shelling of border regions, Mr. Putin stated that he was contemplating "creating on Ukrainian territory a kind of sanitary zone so far away from our territory that it would be impossible to reach it."

Mr. Putin stated on Russian state television that only he could answer whether Russia should attempt to retake Kyiv.

Mr. Putin threatened to withdraw Russia from the Black Sea grain agreement, intended to alleviate a global food crisis exacerbated by the invasion.

Both Russia and Ukraine are significant exporters of agricultural products.

Mr. Putin stated at the meeting, "We are currently considering exiting this grain deal."

"Unfortunately, we were once again cheated; nothing was done to liberalize our grain supply to foreign markets."

The United Nations-Turkey agreement will expire on July 17 unless Russia agrees to extend it.

Independent confirmation of Ukraine advance

The blue and yellow flag of Ukraine has been raised over a destroyed grocery store, and dead Russian soldiers lie in the street of the village of Neskuchne, which Reuters journalists reached on Tuesday. This is the first independent confirmation of Ukraine's greatest advances against Russia's invasion in the past seven months.

Neskuchne, one of a cluster of settlements on the Mokry Yali River that Ukraine said its forces had captured in a steady advance south into Russian-held territory since their operation began a week ago, contained not a single resident.

The Ukrainian forces traversed the muddy streets atop a tank and a pickup truck.

A military aircraft flew overhead while launching flares.

"Three days ago, there were still Russian forces present. We drove them from Neskuchne. "Glory to Ukraine," exclaimed Artem, a Ukrainian territorial defense unit member who did not provide his surname.

"These are Ukrainian lands"

The majority of the one- and two-story structures in the village, which had a population of several hundred before Russia's invasion the previous year, were destroyed or severely damaged.

Except for the distant boom of artillery fire, the scene was silent.

At least three dead Russian soldiers were observed by Reuters lying in the street, including one whose corpse had been blown by the wind and was near an abandoned Russian military vehicle.

Artem stated that the advancing Ukrainian forces had observed from a drone as his comrades attempted to evacuate him before abandoning him where he lay and fleeing.

It was the region's first independent corroboration of the Ukrainian advance, approximately 90 kilometers southwest of Donetsk.

Major NATO air defence exercise

The largest air deployment exercise in the history of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is currently underway in Germany and will continue until June 23.

Long-planned Air Defender 2023 will demonstrate the alliance's capabilities amid heightened tensions with Russia.

Monday morning (local time), the first aircraft lifted off from airfields in northern Germany.

Approximately 10,000 individuals and 250 aircraft from 25 countries will respond to a simulated attack on a NATO member.

The United States is deploying approximately 100 aircraft and 2,000 US Air National Guard personnel.

"The exercise is a signal — a signal above all to us, a signal to us, the NATO countries, but also to our population that we can react very quickly... that we would be able to defend the alliance in the event of an attack," said Lieutenant General Ingo Gerhartz of the German Air Force, speaking to ZDF television.

According to Lieutenant General Gerhartz, he proposed the 2018 exercise because Russia's annexation of Crimea highlighted the need for NATO to be able to defend itself.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 has prompted NATO to intensify its preparations for a potential assault on its territory.

Sweden is seeking alliance membership, and Japan is also participating in the exercise.

Early days of counterattack

An official in Ukraine supported by Russia stated that a senior Russian officer was killed by a Ukrainian missile strike during the counter-offensive.

Vladimir Rogov, a Russian-installed official in part of the southern Zaporizhzhia region that is under Moscow's control, stated that the Chief of Staff of Russia's 35th Army, Major-General Sergei Goryachev, was killed on the Zaporizhzhia front on Monday, where Ukrainian forces were retaking some territory.

The Defense Ministry did not immediately corroborate the news, first reported by a Russian war correspondent and blogger.

Major-General Goryachev, 52, was a highly decorated officer who fought in the Second Chechen War, commanded a tank brigade, supervised a Russian military base in Tajikistan, and commanded Russian forces in the pro-Russian breakaway region of Transnistria in Moldova.

According to leaked US intelligence documents, Russia has endured losses several times greater than Ukraine's, with the heaviest casualties occurring during the winter and spring campaigns that captured scant territory in recent months.

Ukraine launched a counteroffensive last week after remaining on the defensive for seven months during a massive Russian winter and spring campaign that yielded negligible gains despite the deadliest ground fighting in Europe since World War II.

Ukraine's offensive is still in its infancy, as tens of thousands of new troops and hundreds of Western armored vehicles have yet to join the conflict.

For its part, Russia has had months to prepare multiple layers of defensive lines, so Ukraine's advance does not inherently constitute a breach in the front.

After a week of providing scant details about its offensive, Ukraine announced that it had recaptured seven settlements.

Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar stated that troops have advanced up to 6.5 kilometers and seized 90 square kilometers of territory along a 100-kilometer stretch of the southern front line.

Since the counteroffensive began a week ago, Russia has not acknowledged any Ukrainian gains and claims to have repelled repeated advances.

Its defense ministry reported on Tuesday that its troops repelled Ukrainian attacks near the villages of Makarivka, Rivnopil, and Prechystyvka.

Moscow also published video footage of what it claimed was captured German Leopard tanks and American Bradley Fighting Vehicles.

Reuters was unable to confirm the footage's location or time immediately.

Divide deepens between Wagner and army

Mr. Putin stated that he supported a Defense Ministry directive requiring mercenary groups fighting in Ukraine to sign contracts with it by 1 July, something that the prominent Wagner Group has categorically refused to do.

Wagner's founder and Russia's most potent mercenary, Yevgeny Prigozhin, has stated that his organization will not sign a contract due to what he perceives to be Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu's inability to manage groups like Wagner's.

However, on Tuesday, Mr. Putin made it plain that he wanted all so-called private military companies to register and the law changed to legalize their activities.

Putin told a group of war correspondents, "This is the only way to ensure social guarantees [for mercenary fighters] because there is no contract with the state and no contract with the defense ministry."

This task must be completed as soon as feasible.

The new contract system would more closely integrate Wagner and Mr. Prigozhin, regarded by some government officials as an irresponsible but effective maverick, into the subordinate command structure of the defense ministry.

This would make it more difficult for Mr. Prigozhin to establish his own political and military influence, something he has been doing for months while receiving military equipment and ammunition from the army.

Mr. Putin's intervention on behalf of the defense ministry places Mr. Prigozhin in a potentially precarious position, as the ministry has stated that such contracts are required to provide volunteer organizations with the "necessary legal status" to operate.

In response, Mr. Prigozhin had previously stated that he was uncertain whether or not his men would continue to fight in Ukraine amidst the ongoing dispute with the defense ministry, with whom he has been at odds for a long time over everything from subpar leadership and tactics to ammunition shortages.

Wagner's fighters have proven to be among Russia's most effective in Ukraine despite massive losses, and any attempt by him to withdraw from the conflict could be considered treason by Moscow officials.

Publish : 2023-06-14 10:51:00

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