Ukraine ‘holds initiative’ in counteroffensive against Russia, says UK military chief

‘The idea that war is neat and tidy, and you can plan and predict it to the nth degree is nonsense’

Arpan Rai
Friday 15 September 2023 06:35 BST
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Britain’s military chief has defended Ukraine’s counteroffensive and said its troops “continue to hold the initiative” amid criticism that the pushback against the Russian invasion is moving slowly.

The comments have also come as the war-hit nation’s deputy defence minister on Thursday said “good news” had emerged in the eastern front of the battlefield.

“In the north, they are holding and fixing Russian forces there and in the south they are making progress between 10km and 20km, depending on how you judge it,” Sir Tony Radakin was quoted as saying by The Guardian at the DSEI arms fair in London.

“The idea that war is neat and tidy, and you can plan and predict it to the nth degree is nonsense,” said Britain’s most senior military officer.

He said progress of the counteroffensive could not be measured by a predictable timetable and warned the UK is vulnerable to a potential missile or drone attack as he pushed for a further discussion on improving homeland security.

There is an “aggressive world out there in terms of state threats”, he said, pointing out it is now easy to “get close to a country and fly drones in”.

British armed forces were “having a bigger conversation about homeland defences”, the chief of the defence staff said and asked whether within that “we need to have a conversation about integrated missile defence”.

Admiral Radakin has been closely monitoring the war with communication lines to Ukraine’s most senior military commander Valerii Zaluzhnyi.

The comments come a week after Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg shot back at recent criticism of “slow” counteroffensive from Ukrainian troops as he pointed out the numbers of mines in the battlefield Ukraine is encountering are at a historic high.

“The starting point is that the Russian army used to be the second strongest in the world. And now the Russian army is the second strongest in Ukraine. That’s quite impressive by Ukrainians,” he said.

“No one ever said that this was going to be easy,” Mr Stoltenberg told lawmakers at the European parliament earlier this month.

“Hardly any time in history we have seen more mines on the battlefield than we are seeing in Ukraine today. So it was obvious that this was going to be extremely difficult.

“The Ukrainians are gradually gaining ground. They have been able to breach the defensive lines of the Russian forces, and they are moving forward,” he said.

Ukrainian officials said the war being fought in the country is unlike any other, as its air space has not been shut down and it does not have top-tier warplanes like F-16s.

Last month, several US and other Western officials suggested the grinding war’s counteroffensive stage was falling short of expectations – but did not choose to be quoted on their claims.

Some officials pointed holes in Ukraine’s strategy and blamed it for concentrating its forces in the wrong places.

The counteroffensive has been backed by billions of dollars’ worth of Western military equipment.

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