Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Friday that the major counter-offensive that Ukraine has been preparing for months had "begun" on the front, but that Kiev's forces had failed to "achieve their objectives".
"We can totally affirm that this offensive has begun, as evidenced by the use of strategic reserves," Putin said in a video broadcast on Telegram by a reporter for Russian state television.
According to him, the fighting has been going on for five days but "Ukrainian troops have not achieved their objective on any of the battlefields". "All attempts at counter-offensive so far have failed, but the Kiev regime still has offensive potential," Putin added, assuring that the Russian response "will be based on this observation".
The Russian military has reported in recent days of intense fighting in southern Ukraine, claiming to have repelled several Ukrainian attacks that would be the beginnings of the vast counter-offensive prepared for months by the Ukrainian General Staff. The Ukrainian authorities, whose army is now equipped with modern Western equipment, appeared to minimize the fighting while continuing to maintain vagueness about their strategy.
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According to Ukraine's deputy defense minister, Kiev's forces are conducting "active combat operations" near the devastated city of Bakhmut in the east and "position battles" are taking place in the south, where Russian troops are conducting "defensive operations."
In a rare move, the Russian military on Tuesday acknowledged the deaths of 71 of its soldiers in operations to repel Ukrainian attacks on the entire front. Putin assured Friday that Ukrainian losses were "on the order of three to one" in favor of Russia.