Moscow has been “doing everything right” in its nearly eight-month invasion of Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Friday, despite a string of embarrassing defeats against Kyiv’s forces, who are to receive US$725 million in new US military assistance.
Putin’s comments came hours after Kremlin-installed officials in Ukraine’s southern Kherson region urged residents to leave as Kyiv said its soldiers were advancing on its main city.
Moscow also hinted at the extent of the damage dealt to the Kerch Bridge linking Crimea and Russia following a blast on Saturday last week, saying it could take many months to complete repairs.
“What is happening today is not pleasant. But all the same, [if Russia hadn’t attacked in February] we would have been in the same situation, only the conditions would have been worse for us,” Putin told reporters after a summit in the capital of Kazakhstan. “So we’re doing everything right.”
However, he acknowledged that Russia’s former Soviet allies were “worried.”
Putin said there was no need for further massive strikes against Ukraine at present and that the Kremlin did not intend to destroy its pro-Western neighbor.
Photo: EPA-EFE / VALERIY SHARIFULIN / KREMLIN POOL / SPUTNIK
“There is no need now for massive strikes. There are other tasks. For now,” he said.
He spoke days after Russia unleashed a wave of missile strikes on cities across Ukraine that left at least 20 civilians dead.
Putin said the strikes were in retaliation for the explosion on the Crimea bridge, which he has described as a “terrorist act.”
The bridge is a logistically crucial transport link for moving military equipment to Russian soldiers fighting in Ukraine.
Separately, Washington on Friday announced an additional US$725 million in military assistance to Kyiv, including more ammunition for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, which have been used by Ukraine to wreak havoc on Russian targets.
The aid comes “in the wake of Russia’s brutal missile attacks on civilians across Ukraine” and “mounting evidence of atrocities by Russia’s forces,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.
It brings the total US military assistance to Ukraine to US$17.6 billion since the Russian invasion on Feb. 24.
“We will continue to stand with the people of Ukraine as they defend their freedom and independence with extraordinary courage and boundless determination,” Blinken said.
The statement came as Ukraine, which is clawing back territory in the east and south, feted its first Defenders Day public holiday since the start of Moscow’s invasion, pledging victory.
“On October 14, we express our gratitude ... gratitude to everyone who fought for Ukraine in the past. And to everyone who is fighting for it now. To all who won then. And to everyone who will definitely win now,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in a video address to mark the occasion.
“The world is with us, more than ever. This makes us stronger than ever in history,” Zelenskiy said, referring to unprecedented Western aid.
In southern Ukraine, Kyiv’s forces have been pushing closer and closer to Kherson, the main city in the region of the same name just north of Crimea.
On Friday, Moscow-installed authorities renewed a call for residents to temporarily leave.
“The bombardment of the Kherson region is dangerous for civilians,” Kirill Stremousov, deputy head of the pro-Russian regional administration said, and urged residents to take a trip for “rest and recreation” elsewhere.
Kyiv, which announced its counteroffensive in the south in August, said it has recaptured more than 400km2 in the Kherson region in under a week.
However, in the east, pro-Russian forces said they were closing in on the industrial city of Bakhmut after reporting the capture of two villages on the city’s outskirts this week.
An official of the so-called Lugansk People’s Republic, a pro-Kremlin breakaway region, said “active hostilities were under way” within Bakhmut.
“Our forces are confidently marching and liberating this settlement,” the official, Andriy Marochko, was quoted as saying by Russia’s state-run TASS news agency.
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