KIEV, Ukraine (AP) – Russian President Vladimir Putin confirmed on Friday that Ukrainian forces had launched a long-awaited counter-offensive, suffering “significant” losses. His comments came just hours after a series of drone strikes inside Russian territory.
It was Putin’s latest attempt to shape the haunting narrative of the invasion he ordered more than 15 months ago, drawing widespread international condemnation and reviving Cold War-style tensions.
The conflict entered a complex new phase this week, with the collapse of the Dnieper River dam sending floodwaters pouring across a large swath of front in southern Ukraine. Tens of thousands of civilians already face the misery of regular bombardment They fled to higher ground on either side of the swollen, sprawling waterway.
Kiev downplayed the importance of talking about a counterattack, believing that the less talk about its military moves, the better. He speaks after he visited the flood areas On Thursday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he was in contact with Ukrainian forces “in all the hottest areas” and praised the indefinite “result” of their efforts.
Putin said Russian forces had the upper hand.
“We can clearly say that the offensive has begun, as evidenced by the use of strategic reserves by the Ukrainian army,” Putin told reporters in Sochi, where he was meeting heads of state of the Eurasian Economic Union. “But the Ukrainian forces did not fulfill their stated tasks in a single combat zone.”
Kiev has not specified whether reservists have been massed at the front, but its Western allies have poured firepower, defensive systems and other military assets and advice into Ukraine, raising the risk of an expected counterattack.
“We are witnessing that the forces of the Ukrainian regime are suffering great losses,” Putin said, without giving details. “The offensive side has been known to take losses 3 to 1 – it’s kind of classic – but in this case the losses are way beyond that classic.”
Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar said on Friday that Russia is taking a defensive position in the southeastern Zaporizhia region, although the epicenter of the fighting is still in the east, particularly in the Donetsk region. It described the “severe battles” at Liman, Bakhmut, Avdiivka and Marinka.
Valery Chershin, a spokeswoman for the Armed Forces of Ukraine in Zaporizhye, told Radio Liberty that they were looking for weaknesses in Russia’s defence, which Moscow was trying to reinforce by laying mines, building fortifications and regrouping.
Earlier, regional authorities in southwestern Russia near the Ukrainian border reported the latest wave of drone strikes. The strikes exposed the weaknesses of the Russian air defense systems.
The governor of the Voronezh region, Alexander Gusev, said via the Telegram application that a drone crashed into a high-rise apartment building in the city with the same name, as a result of which three residents were injured by shards of glass. Russian state media published pictures of shattered windows and damage to the façade.
Gusev said the drone was targeting a nearby air base, but deviated from its course after its signals were jammed. The city is located 250 kilometers (155 miles) north of the Luhansk region of Ukraine, most of which is occupied by Russia.
On the other hand, the governor of the neighboring Belgorod region, which borders Ukraine, Vyacheslav Gladkov, said that air defenses shot down two unspecified targets during the night. He said that an apartment building and private homes were damaged, without saying what. He also said that a drone fell on the roof of an administrative building in the city of Belgorod. He wrote that it failed to explode but caught fire on impact, causing “minor damage”.
The leader of Russia’s third district, Kursk Roman Starovoit, said a drone crashed on the ground outside an oil depot and near water tanks in the local capital, causing no casualties or damage.
Ukrainian authorities have generally denied any role in the attacks inside Russia. Such drone strikes—there was even one near the Kremlin—along with cross-border raids in southwestern Russia, have brought the war home. for russians.
In Ukraine, the governor of the Kherson region, Oleksandr Prokudin, said Friday that water levels fell by about 20 centimeters (8 inches) overnight on the western bank of the Dnieper River, which was flooded starting Tuesday after the Nova Kakhovka dam was breached. upstream.
Officials from both sides said about 20 people were killed in the floods. UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Ukraine, Dennis Brown, visited the flood-affected town of Belozerka on Friday.
“Ms. Dujarric said that although preliminary estimates indicated that 17,000 people were affected in the areas controlled by Ukraine alone, it is important to understand that the crisis has not stopped and continues to develop rapidly.
Kiev accused Russia of blowing up the dam and the hydroelectric power station, which is controlled by Russian forces, while Moscow said that Ukraine had bombed it.
The Norwegian seismological center Norsar said on Friday that a seismological station in neighboring Romania recorded tremors near the dam at 2:54 a.m. Tuesday, around the time Zelensky said the breach occurred.
“What we can see from our data is that there was an explosion in the dam area at the same time that the dam broke,” Volker Oye, head of research at NORSAR, told the Associated Press.
The Norwegian Center is part of a global monitoring system that helps verify compliance with the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty.
Experts expected that the consequences of the dam collapse would last for months. Continued fighting in the area was bound to slow recovery efforts.
Viktor Vitovitsky, a representative of Ukraine’s emergency service, said floods have inundated 46 municipalities in the Kherson region, 14 of which are along the Russian-occupied eastern bank of the river.
Even as efforts continue to rescue civilians and provide them with fresh water and other services, he said, Russian bombardment over the course of the last day has killed two civilians and wounded 17 others in the area.
In other developments Friday:
1. Air raid sirens and warning systems sounded across Ukraine overnight warning of more long-range strikes by drones and missiles. The district governor said that falling debris from a Russian missile killed a civilian and wounded three others in the western city of Zvihel.
2. Gladkov, the governor of Russia’s Belgorod region, said that Ukrainian shelling injured three civilians in the border town of Shchebykino.
3. The Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank, said that a “variety of indicators” indicated that Ukraine’s counteroffensive had begun. She said that the new phase of the war “may also witness the largest Ukrainian losses.”
4. Andrei Yermak, head of Zelensky’s office, said that two hospital workers, a nurse and a plumber were killed and two other people were injured in the Russian bombing of a hospital in Hulyipol, Zaporizhia region.
Kozlowska reported from London. John Gambrel in Kyiv; Hanna Arherova in Warsaw, Poland; edit m. Leader at the United Nations; David Keaton in Stockholm, Sweden, contributed to this report.
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