MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Friday that Ukrainian forces had certainly begun their expected counter-offensive in heavy fighting in Ukraine, but that every attempt to advance had failed, with heavy casualties.
His comments expanded the narrative Russia had been developing since the start of the week, which Kiev has refused to challenge, saying only that the start of the counteroffensive will not be announced.
The Russian Ministry of Defense said earlier that it had repelled fierce attacks in the Zaporizhye and Donetsk regions, causing the death of more than a thousand Ukrainians and the destruction of dozens of tanks and armored vehicles, but it did not provide any evidence for its assertions.
It said that Ukrainian forces attacked the Russian lines four times with two battalions supported by tanks south of Velika Novosilka in Donetsk, but were repulsed.
The ministry said that Russian forces also repelled two attacks south of the city of Orekhiv in the Zaporizhia region.
Putin said the loss of life in Ukraine far exceeded the traditional ratio of three attackers to one defender.
He added, “All counter-attack attempts that have been made so far have failed. However, the offensive capability of the Kiev regime’s forces is still preserved.”
The ministry said that Ukraine lost about 1,200 men, about 40 tanks and several aircraft, including a MiG-29 and a Su-25 in 24 hours, but did not give details of Russia’s losses.
Reuters cannot independently verify battlefield accounts or casualties reported by either side, both of which have in the past given high casualty figures for the other.
Russia said on Tuesday that 3,715 Ukrainians had been killed or injured in three days, without explaining how it reached such an exact number.
Tens of thousands of Russian troops have been digging in for months along a front line stretching some 600 miles (1,000 kilometers), preparing for an offensive expected to try to sever Russia’s so-called land bridge to Crimea, which Moscow has annexed. in 2014.
The fate of the counterattack, backed by tens of billions of dollars in Western arms, is likely to influence the shape of future Western diplomatic and military support for Ukraine.
(Reporting by Jay Faulconbridge). Written by Kevin Levy. Editing by Mark Trevelyan, Andrew Osborne and Angus McSwan
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