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Putin ready to seize more Ukrainian territory to prevent attacks on border regions

Russian President Vladimir Putin hinted has hinted that he might instruct his troops to seize additional land in Ukraine as a means to safeguard neighboring Russian territory. However, the credibility of this threat is questionable since the Kremlin does not exert complete control over the areas it has already annexed.

In his most detailed remarks about the war in months, Putin claimed that Ukrainian forces had suffered significant losses in a recent counteroffensive, referring to them as “catastrophic.” He clarified that he currently had no plans for a new troop mobilization, which has been a concern among many Russians. Nevertheless, he did not rule out the possibility of a future troop call-up.

Additionally, he restated Russia’s assertion that Ukraine was responsible for the destruction of a dam on the Dnieper River, leading to extensive flooding on both sides of the front line in the southern part of the country.

Putin’s comments came in response to Kyiv’s claims that Ukrainian troops had captured several villages during the initial stages of the counteroffensive, aiming to drive Russian troops out of the four regions of Ukraine that the Kremlin illegally annexed last fall. These remarks were made during an open meeting with military journalists and bloggers and followed Russian missile strikes in central Ukraine, resulting in the deaths of at least 11 people.

According to Putin, Ukraine’s counteroffensive has been ineffective. He alleged that Ukraine lost 160 tanks and over 360 other armored vehicles, while Russia lost 54 tanks since the start of the recent assault. However, the accuracy of these claims could not be immediately verified as Ukrainian officials typically do not comment on losses.

The White House did not provide an immediate response to Putin’s assertions. A U.S. official familiar with American intelligence dismissed Putin’s comments as “inaccurate” and cautioned against giving credence to Russia’s public assessments. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, did not elaborate on how Putin’s claims were misleading.

In reference to alleged Ukrainian incursions into Russia and the shelling of border regions, Putin contemplated the establishment of a “sanitary zone” on Ukrainian territory, making it impossible for Ukraine to encroach on Russian territory.

The feasibility of Russia expanding its gains in Ukraine while simultaneously repelling the evolving counteroffensive in multiple sectors of the over 1,000-kilometer (600-mile) front line remains uncertain. Russia failed to capture Kyiv and its surrounding areas earlier in the war and subsequently had to relinquish other captured territory, even within the annexed regions.

In recent weeks, Russia’s border areas have faced increasing attacks, with the Kremlin blaming Ukrainian forces for incursions by fighters and drone strikes. Although Ukrainian authorities have not confirmed Kyiv’s involvement in these attacks, they have tacitly welcomed them. Russian volunteer units sympathizing with Ukraine have claimed responsibility for some of the incursions. Local leaders in Russia have implored the Kremlin to take further action to protect residents, some of whom have been evacuated to safer areas.

Putin acknowledged that Russian authorities should have foreseen and prepared to counter such attacks. In the earlier stages of the war, the border was better protected due to Russia’s control over more adjacent Ukrainian territory. However, last fall, under the pressure of a Ukrainian counteroffensive, Kremlin forces withdrew from much of that territory.

Putin’s extensive meeting with military bloggers and war correspondents from traditional news media was a significant recognition of their importance in conveying the Kremlin’s viewpoint.

Simultaneously, the State Department announced that the United States would provide Ukraine with a new military aid package valued at up to $325 million, including various rockets, missiles, and other munitions.

Putin mocked alleged Ukrainian losses on the battlefield, including the destruction of advanced Western equipment that Kyiv had received. He derided German-made Leopard battle tanks and U.S.-made Bradley infantry

fighting vehicles, sarcastically commenting on how well they “burn.”

Earlier on Tuesday, the Russian defense ministry released a video claiming to show a captured Leopard 2 tank and Bradley fighting vehicle from Ukrainian forces. The ministry stated that Russian soldiers filmed the video after intense fighting in Zaporizhzhia. However, the authenticity of the video could not be immediately verified.

Ukrainian officials have displayed a determination to win the war, with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy insisting that his people will not relent until Ukraine is completely liberated from Russian control.

In contrast to Putin’s pessimistic view of Ukraine’s progress in the counteroffensive, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, during a meeting with President Joe Biden, expressed that Ukrainians are “making progress” and that it could strengthen their position in potential peace negotiations. Stoltenberg emphasized that the more land Ukraine liberates, the stronger their stance will be at the negotiating table.

Meanwhile, Ukraine’s deputy defense minister, Hanna Maliar, announced on Ukrainian TV that their forces continue to advance in four areas in the south and east. The head of Ukraine’s ground troops, Oleksandr Syrskyi, shared on Telegram that their forces are moving forward outside Bakhmut, in eastern Ukraine, and that Russian forces are losing ground on the flanks.

In other developments, Ukrainian authorities reported that a Russian missile strike on the city of Kryvyi Rih, President Zelenskyy’s hometown, killed at least 11 people and injured 36 overnight. Images shared by Zelenskyy on his Telegram channel depicted firefighters battling a blaze and damaged buildings and vehicles.

The Russian Defense Ministry, without disclosing specific locations or timing, stated that they launched long-range air-launched cruise missiles to target Ukrainian military reserves and depots containing Western weapons and ammunition.

Serhiy Lysak, the governor of the Dnipropetrovsk region, informed via Telegram that the bodies of seven individuals were recovered from a warehouse belonging to a private company, while “another four destinies were cut short” at the apartment building.

As the conflict between Russia and Ukraine escalates, the situation remains highly volatile, with both sides making conflicting claims and engaging in military maneuvers. The international community closely watches the developments, hoping for a peaceful resolution to the crisis that has already claimed numerous lives and displaced countless civilians.

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