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Zelenskiy: Ukraine is ready to launch counteroffensive

‘I don’t know how long it will take. To be honest, it can go a variety of ways, completely different,’ the Ukrainian president said during an interview with the ‘Wall Street Journal’

Zelenskiy Russian war in Ukraine
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on a visit to the front lines in April.Europa Press/Contacto/Pool /Ukrainian Presidentia (Europa Press/Contacto/Pool /Ukra)

Ukraine is ready to launch its counteroffensive against Russian forces, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in an interview published Saturday in the Wall Street Journal. A period of dry weather in some parts of the country had led analysts to believe that the operation to recover territories occupied by Russian troops may be imminent, despite Zelenskiy himself playing down the possibility of an upcoming offensive in recent weeks. Saturday’s interview with the Ukrainian president came as increased attacks inside Russian territory claimed the lives of two people in the Belgorod region, according to its governor, Vyacheslav Gladkov. Hours earlier, Russian authorities in the region announced the urgent evacuation of 600 children.

“I don’t know how long it will take. To be honest, it can go a variety of ways, completely different. But we are going to do it, and we are ready,” Zelenskiy told the Wall Street Journal. Zelenskiy said in May that Ukraine needed to wait for more Western armored vehicles to arrive before launching a counterattack. The Ukrainian president has waged a diplomatic campaign to maintain Western support, seeking more military aid and weaponry, which will be key to the success of Kyiv’s objectives in the counteroffensive.

Ukraine’s plans for an attack against the Russian occupying forces are continuing as planned, despite an “unprecedented” wave of missile and drone attacks across the country in recent weeks, the deputy defense minister told Reuters.

Volodymyr Havrylov said that, along with cruise missile attacks, Ukraine had faced repeated ballistic missile barrages throughout May, especially in urban centers including the capital, Kyiv. “Russia’s main goal is to stop our counteroffensive and target decision-making centers,” Havrylov said on the sidelines at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, Asia’s most important security conference. Havrylov called Russia’s intensive use of ballistic missiles in May a “last strategic resort” and said that Ukraine’s air defense systems had proven “more than 90% effective” against Russian air strikes.

Havrylov added that for Moscow, “it was a huge surprise to find that the effectiveness [of its ballistic missiles] was almost zero against modern air defense systems, which we received from our partners.” The United States and Germany have provided Ukraine with advanced Patriot missile batteries. Ukraine had already received advanced shorter-range systems, such as NASAMS and IRIS-T, from its Western allies.

Havrylov stated that the missile barrages had not affected Kyiv’s timetable for the counteroffensive. “Nothing can stop our efforts, our desire, and our confidence that we’ll win this war,” he added, stating that Ukraine “start the counter-offensive, with the ambition to liberate our territories this year.” In recent weeks, Ukraine has stepped up its attacks on Russian ammunition depots and logistical routes.

Kyiv rejects Indonesian peace plan

Indonesia’s Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto on Saturday proposed a peace plan to end the war in Ukraine, calling for a demilitarized zone and a United Nations referendum on what he described as “disputed areas.” Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko rejected the plan, reiterating Kyiv’s position that Russia should withdraw its troops from Ukraine.

Subianto called on military and defense officials from around the world, who have gathered in Singapore for the Shangri-La Dialogue, to issue a statement calling for a cessation of hostilities. Indonesia proposed a multi-point plan that included a ceasefire and the establishment of a demilitarized zone to be created by both armies withdrawing 15 kilometers (nearly 10 miles) from each side’s forward positions. The demilitarized zone should be observed and monitored by UN-deployed peacekeepers, he said, adding that a UN referendum should be held “to ascertain objectively the wishes of the majority of the inhabitants of the various disputed areas.”

Nikolenko claimed that Russia had committed an act of aggression, occupying Ukrainian territories, and that any ceasefire proposal would allow Moscow to regroup and strengthen. “There are no disputed territories between Ukraine and the Russian Federation to hold referendums there,” he said. “In the occupied territories, the Russian army commits war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. Russia is now trying in every possible way to disrupt the Ukrainian counteroffensive.”

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