Ukrainian officials send mixed signals on counteroffensive
Ukrainian government officials have made contradictory claims on whether the much-anticipated counteroffensive against Russian forces has begun. The leadership in Kiev has insisted for the past several months that the country is preparing to drive enemy forces from territories under Moscow’s control.
Speaking to Bloomberg on Thursday, a senior adviser to President Vladimir Zelensky, Igor Zhovkva, stated that Ukraine “will further be preparing the counteroffensive.” He explained that the operation will commence once Kiev has received all the necessary weapons from its backers, including long-range artillery, ammunition, and battle tanks.
Speaking the same day, the spokesperson for Ukraine’s Main Directorate of Intelligence (GUR), Andrey Yusov, also used the future tense when talking about the planned counteroffensive.
“As for the specifics, we definitely shouldn’t be asking every day, ‘What’s new with the counteroffensive?’ But, no doubt, there will be liberation,” the official insisted, adding that “everything will be alright.”
The statements came shortly after another senior aide to President Zelensky, Mikhail Podoliak, told Italy’s Rai TV channel that the “counteroffensive has been going on for several days now, intense warfare is underway along the 1,500km-long border.”
He also stressed Ukraine’s commitment to not using Western-provided weapons to conduct strikes on Russian soil. At the same time, Podoliak noted that Kiev sees Crimea as well as the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics as legitimate targets. Ukraine and Russia both consider these territories to be their own.
Several hours later, Podoliak took to Twitter to clarify his remarks, arguing that the counteroffensive is “not a ‘single event’ that will begin at a specific hour of a specific day with a solemn cutting of the red ribbon.”
Instead, he said the Ukrainian military has been taking action in various locations for some time to weaken Russian forces, with special emphasis on the “destruction of enemy logistics.”
Top Ukrainian officials, including President Zelensky, have on several occasions floated the idea that the counteroffensive might be delayed due to the slow delivery of Western weapons. Many observers expected it to have already started.
Publicly, the US and other Western backers profess to be ready to support Kiev for “as long as it takes” to ensure it recaptures all the territory it has lost to Russia.
However, earlier this month, Ukrainian Ambassador to the UK Vadim Pristaiko complained that the West has piled “too much pressure” on Kiev and has built up “too much expectation” about the counteroffensive.
The New York Times reported in April that Ukraine’s Western supporters would likely begin to exert pressure on Kiev to negotiate with Moscow, should the much-anticipated offensive fail to yield major success.