I can't give you explanations or details, the Russians will read you," Oleksiy Reznikov, Ukraine's defense minister, told Ouest-France to the question that all Western chancelleries are asking: when will the famous "spring counter-offensive" begin? For several weeks now, "soundings" have been launched around Zaporizhzhia (center), Bakhmut (Donbass), up to this equipped Russian allies of Ukraine in the Belgorod region. But no massive and coordinated attacks yet. Many observers saw in the fierce resistance to Bakhmut, which finally fell, the beginning of a counter-offensive. Indeed, this battle made it possible to "fix" unavailable Russian troops on another part of the front.
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As for the attacks in the Belgorod region, the minister sees rather the disagreement of a "part of the population with the official regime of the Kremlin. And we have images that show us that struggles against the regime in Russia have been going on for a long time." In addition, he denies any link with the Ukrainian army: "They were Russian citizens, we checked it."
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Kiev's main objective remains "the liberation of the occupied territories" "including Crimea, Luhansk and Donetsk," he told Ouest-France. "My personal conviction, my instinct tells me that we have a serious chance of making a breakthrough this year, especially during the summer," he added. "I'm sure we'll be able to make breakthroughs during this counteroffensive in the south, in the east, in two or three places on the battlefield. This will trigger a new movement of withdrawal of Russians from our territory, details Oleksiy Reznikov. Because they have proceeded to a new mobilization, but they are many beginners, without experience, without mastery of weapons. Wagner used prisoners, and for the siege of Bakhmut, for eight months, 60,000 men died or were wounded in battle."
But to succeed in such an offensive against a Russian army, whatever one says, still operational, Ukraine needs weapons, and modern weapons. US President Joe Biden said he was open on May 19 to the delivery of F-16 fighter jets. "We need more than 100 aircraft," asked the minister who would like to obtain France of the planes. "But from what I know, in France you have a limited amount of Rafale*. I am not sure that the France would agree to give us Rafale to fight directly on the battlefield. It is a question of production, of time. It's not a political issue." Oleksiy Reznikov, who himself "tested the AMX10-RC (French armored reconnaissance vehicles, editor's note)", "was able to measure the high firing accuracy of these armaments".
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A "resource" war
Ukraine, which suffered a heavy rain of missiles and drones on Monday, consumes a lot of anti-aircraft ammunition. "Air defense systems are the No. 1 priority," according to the minister. But, for Kiev, the most important thing is the regular delivery of ammunition: "And there is a very important subject with our partners, concerning the 155 mm caliber (the standardized NATO caliber, editor's note)," he said. "At the beginning of the war, the consumption of artillery shells of various calibers was 60,000 per day on this war. Today we are at about 30,000. Different types. You can use less, even 10,000. But this war is a war of resources."
Finally, the minister mentioned long-range missiles. "When in July last year we received M270 rocket launchers from Germany and French LRUs, we had the opportunity to hit targets 80 km away. But the Russians then moved their strategic positions back to 120 km," he said. Since then, the United Kingdom has supplied Storm Shadow missiles (with an official range of 250 km, but which could well reach double, Editor's note) and "we have asked for Taurus from Germany, Scalp from France and other ammunition from other countries".
*The Rafale is produced by the Dassault group, owner of Le Figaro.