Russian President Vladimir Putin pledged to stick to his campaign against Ukraine, warning that a “more serious” military response would be launched if the counterattack continued.
Putin stood firm despite strong evidence that his military suffered heavy casualties in Ukraine’s retaliatory strikes this month.
The Russian leader said the main goal of the campaign is “the liberation of the entire region of Donbass” – the regions of eastern Ukraine including Donetsk and Luhansk that are largely Russian-speaking.
“The plan is not subject to adjustment,” Putin said. “Our offensive operations in the Donbass do not stop. They are moving slowly … Russian forces are occupying new and new territories.”
He accused Ukrainian forces of carrying out “terrorist acts” and attempts to damage Russian civilian infrastructure.
“At the moment we are quite restrained in our response to this,” Putin said at a news conference on Friday. “If the situation continues to develop like this, the reaction will be more severe.”
Meanwhile, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz spoke to Putin on the phone on Tuesday after a break of several months. According to the German government, the talks lasted 90 minutes.
“The Russian president is pursuing his imperialist goal of capturing part of the neighboring region,” Scholzów Told German broadcaster Deutschlandfunk.
Scholz insisted on a diplomatic solution to the war in Ukraine, telling Putin that it would include a ceasefire, a complete withdrawal of Russian troops, and respect for Ukraine’s territorial sovereignty.
German weapons have “helped to make the difference and made possible the breakthroughs, the current successes that Ukraine is recording”, he said.
Scholz said there was “definitely agitation” in Putin’s tone about the war, but it was not significant.
‘Stubby’ Russian Defense
Defense officials and analysts said on Saturday that Russian forces are setting up a new defensive line in Ukraine’s northeast after Kyiv troops broke through a previous one.
Britain’s Defense Ministry said in an intelligence brief that the new line of defense is likely to be between the Oskil River and Svatov, 150 km (90 miles) southeast of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city.
The adjustment of the front line comes when a Ukrainian counter-attack punched a hole through the previous one in the war and captured large swathes of land in the northeastern Kharkiv region that borders Russia.
“Moscow considers the control of the region important because it is one of the few main routes under Russian control from the Belgorod region of Russia,” the British military said.
“A stubborn defense of the region” was likely, but it was unclear whether the Russians would be able to withstand a more solid Ukrainian attack, it said.
‘Maybe too weak’
According to the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War, Ukrainian forces continue to cross the major Oskil River in the Kharkiv region as they seek to retaliate in Russian-held territory.
In its report on Saturday, the institute said satellite images showed Ukrainian forces had crossed over to the east bank of Oskil in Kupiyansk, placing artillery there. The river, which flows south from Russia into Ukraine, was a natural break in the newly emerged front lines since Ukraine began its push about a week ago.
“Russian forces are too weak to prevent further Ukrainian advances along the entire Oskil River, if Ukrainian forces choose to resume offensive operations,” the institute said.
Videos circulating online on Saturday indicate that Ukraine’s military is also continuing to hold ground in the country’s troubled east.
A video shows a Ukrainian soldier walking past a building, with its roof destroyed, then pointing a colleague over his shoulder while hanging a blue and yellow Ukrainian flag on a mobile phone tower. has been shown to do. The soldier in the video identified the seized village as Dibrova, which is northeast of the city of Sloviask and southeast of the city of Liman in Ukraine’s Donetsk region.
Another online video shows two Ukrainian soldiers posing as a bell tower. A Ukrainian flag hung as a soldier said they had taken the village of Shchurov, north-east of Slovak.
Elsewhere in Ukraine, Russian forces continued to surround cities and villages with missile attacks and shelling.
‘Closer to victory and peace’
Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kailas told a NATO military committee meeting on Saturday that Western military aid to Ukraine has been crucial in the fight against Russia’s aggression, and the political will to keep sending it should not be shaken.
“The ongoing counter-offensive proves that military aid moves Ukraine closer to victory and peace. Our focus should be on increasing our aid and arms supplies to repel the Russian offensive as quickly as possible,” said Kalas. Said in a speech.
Admiral Rob Bauer, chairman of the NATO Military Committee, also praised Kyiv’s recent battlefield successes.
“We are all amazed by the immense courage of the Ukrainian Armed Forces and the Ukrainian people, who repeatedly outshine their opponent… Winter is coming but our support will remain unwavering. Clearly, this conflict is bigger than Ukraine itself. The whole international rules-based order is under attack,” Bauer said.