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Ukraine tells critics of slow counterattack to ‘shut up’

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  • Troops are fighting through heavy minefields
  • NATO Secretary General says “we need to trust” Ukrainian leaders
  • Ukraine has stepped up its drone attacks on Russia

KIEV (Reuters) – Ukraine told critics of the pace of its three-month-old counter-offensive to “shut up” on Thursday, in the clearest sign yet of Kiev’s frustration with leaks from Western officials who say its forces are advancing too slowly. .

Since Ukraine launched a counterattack using billions of dollars worth of Western military equipment, Ukraine has recaptured more than a dozen villages, but it has yet to penetrate major Russian defences.

Reports in the New York Times, the Washington Post and other news organizations last week cited US and other Western officials as saying the attack fell short of expectations. Some have criticized Ukraine’s strategy, including accusing it of concentrating its forces in the wrong places.

Moscow says the Ukrainian campaign has already failed. Ukrainian commanders say they are moving slowly on purpose, weakening Russian defenses and logistics to minimize losses when they finally attack with full force.

“Criticizing the slow pace of the counterattack is like spitting in the face of the Ukrainian soldier who sacrifices his life every day and advances and liberates kilometer after kilometer of Ukrainian territory,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said. to reporters on Thursday.

“I recommend all critics to shut up, come to Ukraine and try to free one square centimeter themselves,” he said during a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Spain.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told CNN that Ukrainian leaders deserve the benefit of the doubt.

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“The Ukrainians have repeatedly exceeded expectations,” he said. “We need to trust them. We advise, help and support. But…the Ukrainians are the ones who have to make these decisions.”

defensive lines

After months of fighting through heavy minefields, Ukrainian forces finally reached Russia’s main defensive lines in recent days, south of the village of Robotyn they captured last week in the western Zaporizhia region.

They are now advancing between the nearby villages of Novopokrupivka and Verbov, looking for a way around the anti-tank ditches and rows of concrete pyramids known as dragon’s teeth that make up the main Russian fortifications visible from space.

A breakthrough would be the first test of Russia’s deeper defences, which Ukraine hopes will be more vulnerable and less mined than the areas its forces have traversed so far.

A Ukrainian commander in the area told Reuters last week that his men had broken through the toughest lines, reached less-defended areas, and were now expected to advance more quickly. Reuters could not independently verify this.

Kiev rarely provides details of its offensive operations.

In a statement on Thursday, Deputy Defense Minister Hana Maliar reported unspecified successes near Novobokrupivka, without providing details.

It also said Ukrainian forces were advancing near Bakhmut in the east, the only city Russia captured in its offensive earlier this year. She added that fierce battles engulfed the villages south of the city.

Oleksandr Sersky, commander of the Ukrainian Ground Forces, spoke of a “positive dynamic” near Bakhmut.

Drone attacks inside Russia

Ukraine has also intensified drone attacks on targets deep inside Russia and in Russian-controlled territory in Ukraine.

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The Russian Defense Ministry said it had destroyed a new Ukrainian drone over the Bryansk region in southern Russia.

It had earlier reported drone strikes overnight in Bryansk and said it had shot down a missile fired at Crimea, which Russia occupied and annexed in 2014.

The night before, Moscow reported Ukrainian attempts to launch drone strikes in six Russian regions, including one that caused a massive fire at a military air base in Pskov in northern Russia, damaging several giant military transport planes on the runway.

While Ukraine rarely comments directly on specific attacks inside Russia, President Volodymyr Zelensky appeared to brag about the Pskov attack twice on Thursday.

In his evening video address, he said: “The results of our weapons – the new Ukrainian weapons – are 700 kilometers away.” “The task is to do more.”

Ukraine’s Western allies generally prevent Kiev from using the weapons they provide to attack Russian territory, but say Ukraine has the right to attack military targets with its own weapons.

The attacks in recent weeks, including several in central Moscow over the past month, have brought the war home for many Russians for the first time after 18 months during which Russia subjected Ukraine to air strikes across the country.

Russia is also facing the fallout from a mutiny two months ago by Wagner, a private army that formed the main offensive force for its winter offensive earlier this year. Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin and his key aides were killed in a plane crash last week.

The Kremlin denied being behind the incident. President Vladimir Putin had called Prigozhin’s rebellion a betrayal, but promised not to punish him for it.

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On Thursday, Prigozhin’s right-hand man Dmitry Utkin, a neo-Nazi former military intelligence officer whose Wagner callsign gave the mercenary force its name, was buried in a cemetery near Moscow guarded by Russian military police. Prigozhin was buried near St Petersburg on Tuesday.

Writing by Peter Graf. Editing by Alex Richardson and Cynthia Osterman

Our standards: Principles of Trust for Thomson Reuters.

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