Preliminary operations have begun to pave the way for a counteroffensive against Russian occupying forces, a Ukrainian presidential adviser has said. “It’s a complicated process, which is not a matter of one day or a certain date or a certain hour,” Mykhailo Podolyak said in an interview with the Guardian. “It’s an ongoing process of deoccupation, and certain processes are already happening, like destroying supply lines or blowing up depots behind the lines.
The commander of Ukraine’s armed forces, Gen Valerii Zaluzhnyi, raised expectations that a major operation could be imminent by declaring on social media: “The time has come to take back what’s ours.” Zaluzhny’s declaration on the Telegram messaging app on Saturday was accompanied by a cinematic video showing heavily armed Ukrainian soldiers preparing for battle.
Explosions shook the Ukrainian capital in early hours on Sunday, Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko said, adding that information was being clarified and defence systems were downing air targets. Klitschko said that at least one person had been killed and more injured in the night raids on Kyiv.
Ukraine’s defence ministry has claimed Russia is planning to simulate a major accident at the occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station to try to thwart Kyiv’s long-planned counteroffensive. The plant, in an area of Russian-occupied southern Ukraine, has been repeatedly hit by shelling that each side blames the other for.
Russian forces have temporarily eased their attacks on the besieged eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut to regroup and strengthen their capabilities, a senior Kyiv official said on Saturday. Russia’s Wagner private army began handing over its positions to regular Russian troops this week after declaring full control of Bakhmut after the longest and bloodiest battle of the war, Reuters reported. In a statement on Telegram, the deputy defence minister, Hanna Maliar, said Russian forces have continued attacking but that “overall offensive activity has decreased”.
Russian forces have intercepted two long-range Storm Shadow cruise missiles supplied to Ukraine by Britain, the RIA news agency cited the defence ministry as saying on Saturday. Reuters reports that the ministry said it had intercepted shorter-range US-built Himars-launched and Harm missiles, and shot down 13 drones in the last 24 hours, RIA reported.
Defeat in its war against Ukraine would leave Russia “vindictive” and “brutal” and posing a threat to Nato countries, the outgoing head of the RAF said. Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston told The Telegraph that Russia’s air force, surface navy and submarine force are a threat to Britain and Nato. He warned its threat could even get worse if the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, was ousted.
A construction worker has been killed near the Russian village of Plekhovo, a few kilometres from the border with Ukraine after shelling from the Ukrainian side, said Roman Starovoyt, the governor of the Kursk region. Works were being carried out not far from Plekhovo on fortifying defensive lines for the state border, the governor said on Telegram.
Ukraine struck oil pipeline installations deep inside Russia on Saturday with a series of drone attacks including on a station serving the vast Druzhba oil pipeline that sends western Siberian crude to Europe, according to Russian media. Ukrainian drone attacks inside Russia have been growing in intensity in recent weeks, and the New York Times reported that US intelligence believes Ukraine was behind a drone attack on the Kremlin earlier this month.
Ukraine has asked Germany to supply it with Taurus cruise missiles, an air-launched weapon with a range of 500 km (310 miles), a spokesperson for the defence ministry in Berlin said on Saturday. Germany received the request several days ago, the spokesperson said, confirming a report by Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. She declined to provide further details or say how likely it was that Germany would supply the missiles to Ukraine.
Russia has dismissed criticism from the US president, Joe Biden, over Moscow’s plan to deploy tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, saying Washington had for decades deployed just such nuclear weapons in Europe. Russia said on Thursday it was pushing ahead with the first deployment of such weapons outside its borders since the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union, and the Belarusian president, Alexander Lukashenko, said the weapons were already on the move.
Russia is to start expelling German diplomats, teachers and employees of cultural institutions next month. The measure is expected to further exacerbate tensions between the two countries, which have already had very fraught ties since Russia invaded Ukraine early last year.
Russia failed in a bid to prevent Ukraine taking a place on the World Health Organization’s executive board, on a day which also saw North Korea gain a berth. Ten countries joined the board for a three-year term but Russia tried to exclude Ukraine from joining the 34-nation forum at the ongoing World Health Assembly in Geneva.
Russia has accused Japan of “cynical, unscrupulous speculation” over Tokyo’s comments around the nuclear threat Moscow poses and promised to respond to Japan’s latest round of sanctions imposed over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, Hirokazu Matsuno, said on Friday that Japan would place additional sanctions on Russia after the G7 summit Tokyo hosted last week agreed to step up measures to punish Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
Tehran on Saturday accused Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, of anti-Iranian propaganda in his call for Iran to halt the supply of drones to Russia, saying his comments were designed to attract more arms and financial aid from the west. Zelenskiy in a video address on Wednesday called on Iranians to stop their slide into “the dark side of history” by supplying Moscow with drones.
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