Russia: Russia denies reports of Ukrainian breakthroughs along front lines

KYIV (Reuters) – The Russian Defense Ministry on Thursday denied reports that Ukrainian forces had broken through at various points along the front lines and said the military situation was under control.
Moscow reacted after Russian military bloggers, writing on the Telegram messaging app, reported what they described as Ukrainian advances north and south of the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmutsome suggesting that a long-awaited counter-offensive by pro-kyiv forces had begun.
President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky had stated earlier that the offensive had not yet begun.
“The statements broadcast by individual Telegram channels about the ‘defense breakthroughs’ that took place in different areas along the military line of contact do not correspond to reality,” the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement. an article from Telegram.
“The general situation in the area of ​​the special military operation is under control,” he said in a statement, using the Kremlin’s description of the war in Ukraine.
The fact that the Russian ministry felt compelled to release the statement reflects what Moscow acknowledges to be a “very difficult” military operation.
Ukraine says it has pushed back Russian forces in recent days near Bakhmut, while a full-scale counteroffensive involving tens of thousands of troops and hundreds of Western tanks is still being prepared.
“We still need a little time” Zelensky said in an interview with European broadcasters.
Reuters was unable to verify the reports and it was unclear whether Ukrainian forces were attacking in force or simply mounting armed reconnaissance raids.
Ukrainian military analyst Oleksandr Musiyenko said Kyiv supporters understood that a counteroffensive “might not lead to the complete expulsion of Russian troops and the final defeat of Russia in all occupied areas.”
“We have to be ready for the war to continue next year – or it could end this year,” Musiyenko told Ukrainian radio NV. “It all depends on the evolution of the fighting. We cannot guarantee the evolution of the counter-offensive.”
Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of Russia’s Private Wagner Army which led the fight at Bakhmut, said on Thursday the Ukrainian operations were “unfortunately, partially successful”. He called “misleading” Zelenskiy’s assertion that the counter-offensive had not yet begun.
UK to send cruise missiles to Ukraine
Ukrainian forces had already received enough equipment from Western allies for their campaign, but were waiting for the full armored vehicles to arrive, Zelenskyy said.
In a major step in Western military support for Ukraine, Britain said it was sending Storm Shadow cruise missiles that would give Kiev the ability to strike deep behind Russian lines.
The missiles are “now entering or are in the country itself”, Defense Secretary Ben Wallace told parliament in London, adding that the missiles were being supplied so that they could be used in Ukraine.
Western countries, including the United States, had previously refrained from supplying long-range weapons for fear of provoking Russian retaliation. Wallace said Britain weighed the risk.
The Kremlin said earlier that if Britain supplied the missiles, it would require “an adequate response from our military”.
In an evening address Thursday, Zelenskyy said he would soon be able to report some very important defence-related news.
“Foreign flags will never rule our land and our people will never be enslaved,” he said.
The war in Ukraine is at a crossroads, with Kiev poised to launch its counter-offensive after six months of keeping its forces on the defensive, while Russia has launched a massive winter offensive that has failed to capture an important territory.
Moscow’s main target for months has been Bakhmut, whom it has yet to fully capture despite Europe’s bloodiest ground fighting since World War II.
Zelenskyy is expected to meet Pope Francis
There are no signs of peace talks between the two countries to end the war, which began in February 2022 with a full-scale invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces. Zelenskyy is expected to meet Pope Francis at the Vatican on Saturday, diplomatic sources said, days after the pope said the Vatican was involved in a peace mission. The pope gave no further information on such an initiative.
The war has deepened a global food crisis – Ukraine and Russia are major agricultural exporters – and while an agreement last July safely reopened some Black Sea grain shipping channels, negotiations to extend the agreement have been difficult.
Ukraine, Russia, Turkey and the United Nations discussed UN proposals on Thursday to keep the pact alive. Moscow threatened to resign on May 18 over obstacles to its grain and fertilizer exports.
Meanwhile in South Africa, an important Russian ally on a continent divided by war, the US ambassador told reporters that Washington was convinced a Russian ship had loaded weapons and ammunition from South Africa in December, a possible violation of Pretoria’s declared neutrality in the conflict. .
The government is opening an independent investigation led by a retired judge into the allegation, President Cyril Ramaphosa’s office said in a statement. No evidence has yet been provided by Washington to support its claims, the president’s office said.
Washington has repeatedly warned countries against providing material support to Russia, saying those who do so could be subject to economic sanctions similar to those imposed on Moscow.


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