Russia is losing a “staggering” 900 soldiers a day, Ukrainian officials have claimed, urging the West to greenlight delivery of fighter jets for its counteroffensive at a Nato meeting this week.
On Tuesday, Ukraine’s deputy defence minister, Hanna Maliar, indicated the long-awaited counteroffensive was making headway, reporting that Ukrainian forces had taken back seven villages opening 90sqkm of land in the last week alone.
However, she said the advance was hard as Russian forces had superior air support and were showering their troops with intense artillery fire.
Yuriy Sak, a key advisor to the defence ministry, told The Independent that while Kyiv was inflicting “heavy” losses on Moscow’s forces, they urgently needed the delivery of fighter jets to keep up the momentum. Mr Sak said that they hoped the decision would be pushed through at a meeting of Nato defence ministers due to take place Thursday in Brussels.
“During the last week, the losses against the Russians have been staggering: on average 900 soldiers have been killed a day by the Ukrainian army,” he said.
“But this is not an easy battle,” he added. “The Russians continue to have command of the air, they have air superiority along the frontline lines”.
He said Ukraine was in urgent need of 4th generation aircraft like F16s, a subject expected to be top of the agenda at the ministerial meeting in the Belgium capital.
“Had we had F16s by now the situation would have been different,” Mr Sak added.
“We hope that watching how the counteroffensive develops is another important argument in favour of speeding up the process of creating this fighter jet coalition.”
Russia has not acknowledged any Ukrainian gains and instead reported that it had successfully repelled attempts to liberate territory in the eastern region of Donetsk. On Tuesday, president Vladimir Putin claimed during a televised meeting with military bloggers that Ukrainian losses were 10 times those of Russian troops. He also suggested that the goals of Moscow's invasion might evolve with the situation, but that their fundamental character would not change
Ukraine has kept quiet about the details of its long-anticipated counteroffensive but has heavily promoted it, even releasing a cinematic trailer featuring footage from the frontline.
This week, the Ministry of Defence posted a cryptic 30-second video of the country’s spy chief Kyrylo Budanov sitting in silence behind his desk as the camera zoomed in and a caption read “Plans love silence”.
The offensive is in its early days: tens of thousands of fresh Ukrainian troops and hundreds of Western armoured vehicles are yet to be committed to the fight. But Kyiv has already claimed some movement forward.
Russia has, meanwhile, ramped up its missile attacks on cities. On Tuesday, it pounded Volodymyr Zelensky’s hometown of Kryvyi Rih, killing at least 11 people inside an apartment building and warehouse. More than two dozen others were said to be wounded. “More terrorist missiles,” Mr Zelensky wrote on Telegram. “Russian killers continue their war against residential buildings, ordinary cities and people.”
Air raid sirens also blared across the whole of Ukraine, with Kyiv’s military officials saying air defence forces destroyed all Russian missiles targeting the capital.
Russia has also accused Ukraine of cross-border shelling on its territory, as Kyiv carries out counteroffensive operations.
It also released video footage of what it said were German-made Leopard tanks and US-made Bradley Fighting Vehicles captured in battle.
Ukraine accused Russia of blowing up a key dam in the southern region of Kherson this month, unleashing one of Europe’s biggest reservoirs over the area.
Russia has denied the accusations and instead claimed Kyiv blew up its own dam.
Calling it a “terrorist attack” and a “war crime” Mr Sak said the explosion of the dam was aimed to “slow down or thwart” counteroffensive activities.
“We had made contingency plans ... It has not had a considerable impact on our military plans,” he said.
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