As Russia bombards Kyiv forces with artillery and missiles, Ukraine says it can defeat Moscow troops
Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Olga Stefanishyna told France 24 on Tuesday that territorial gains near Kharkov are a “turning point” in the conflict with Russia and placed kyiv in a position of strength. While Stefanishyna claimed Ukraine had rejected Russian offers of peace talks, Russia said it had conducted “massive strikes” on the Ukrainian positions.
Ukraine reclaimed a swathe of territory in the Kharkov region last week, with kyiv claiming a successful counteroffensive and Russia downplaying its importance, instead saying it had reduced its forces to “regroup” and strengthen its positions in Donetsk.
“It’s not just the turning point of the full-scale war…it’s the turning point of the war that started in the spring of 2014,” said Stefanishyna, referring to kyiv’s eight-year effort to suppress the independence of the Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics.
Stefanishyna said Russian officials reached out to kyiv in the days following the apparent counteroffensive, offering to negotiate peace terms in return for a ceasefire. Moscow has not commented on the claims, and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Sunday that Russia remains open to negotiations, but peace will become more difficult the longer its military operation continues.
Stefanishyna said the so-called Russian offer had been rebuffed and Ukraine would start negotiations only after achieving its military goals. Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky has repeatedly said kyiv’s military goals include driving Russian forces out of Ukraine and retaking both the Donbas republics and Crimea, which voted to join Russia in 2014.
Despite Stefanishyna’s optimism, the Russian Defense Ministry said on Tuesday that its air force, missile troops and artillery had carried out “massive strikes” on the Ukrainian positions the day before. Hitting Ukrainian units near Slavyansk and Konstantinovka in eastern Ukraine and Artemovsk and Kurdyumovka in the Donetsk People’s Republic, the ministry said its shelling killed more than 800 Ukrainian and foreign troops.
Other attacks targeted Ukrainian units in the south of the country and near Kharkov in the north, the ministry said, while another round of strikes wiped out a 45,000-ton ammunition depot near the town of Voznesensk in the Nikolaev region and killed 300 Ukrainian soldiers.
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