Officials signal counteroffensive against Russia

Ukrainian officials are fueling speculations about when a massive, much-anticipated counteroffensive against Russia may begin.

“The time has come to take back what is ours,” General Valerii Zaluzhnyi, commander in chief of Ukraine’s armed forces, wrote in a Saturday morning Telegram post.

On Twitter, the Armed Forces of Ukraine released an “informational support campaign” video honoring its military forces and encouraging people to join in order to “raise the banner of our victory.”

Ukraine has yet to officially announce the start of the counteroffensive. But Ukrainian security official, Oleksiy Danilov, told the BBC in an interview Saturday it could begin “tomorrow, the day after tomorrow or in a week.”

Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak has said the counteroffensive would not be “a single event that will begin at a specific hour of a specific day.”

“These are dozens of different actions to destroy the Russian occupation forces in different directions, which have already been taking place yesterday, are taking place today and will continue tomorrow,” Podolyak said Thursday.


Ukraine’s Defense Ministry has claimed, without offering evidence, that Russia plans to strike the country’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant and report a radioactive leak in order to trigger an international probe that would disrupt the looming Ukrainian counteroffensive.There have been 974 attacks on Ukraine’s health care system since the Russian invasion began, according to the World Health Organization. Of them, 873 were attacks on medical facilities, and they have resulted in 101 deaths and 136 injuries since Feb. 24, 2022.Russia will start expelling several hundred German state employees, including teachers, diplomats and employees of German cultural institutions, from the country next month, the German Foreign Office said Saturday.President Joe Biden on Friday criticized a deal between Russia and Belarus to allow Moscow to deploy tactical nuclear weapons to its neighboring ally. Biden said his reaction to the plan was “extremely negative.”Russia has grappled with a substantial increase in desertions since ordering a partial mobilization in September 2022, said the British Defense Ministry, citing research from independent Russian journalists that shows 1,053 cases between January and May 2023, more than in all of 2022.

Battleground updates: Explosions in Mariupol, shelling in Dnipro

Crews were finishing clearing debris Saturday after a devastating attack on the Ukrainian city of Dnipro on Friday. The Russian strike killed two people and wounded 30 others, including two children, Ukrainian officials said.

Here are more recent battleground updates:

Mariupol: Three explosions were reported in Mariupol, a southern Ukrainian city occupied by Russia, Petro Andriushchenko, an adviser to the city’s Ukrainian mayor, wrote Saturday on Telegram. Smoke could be seen rising from the side of a railway station, Andriushchenko said.Donetsk: A Russian S-300 missile hit a dam in the Karlivka district of Donetsk province in eastern Ukraine, threatening nearby settlements with flooding.Sudzhansky: A construction worker was killed when Ukrainian forces shelled the Russian border district of Sudzhansky, the regional governor claimed on Telegram Saturday.Pskov: An explosion damaged the administrative building of an oil pipeline in Russia’s Pskov region, near the country’s border with Belarus, local governor Mikhail Vedernikov said Saturday, claiming the building was attacked by two drones. There were no casualties, Vedernikov said.Belgorod: Russia’s southern Belgorod region came under attack Friday from Ukrainian artillery fire, mortar shells and drones, authorities said. Four houses, a store, a car, a gas pipeline and a power line were damaged, Gov. Vyacheslav Gladkov said.

Wagner leader says Ukraine could push Russia out of occupied territory

Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of Wagner, Russia’s mercenary army, said he could envision Ukraine’s upcoming offensive pushing Moscow’s troops out of occupied territory – including Crimea – and warned of harsh days ahead.

Prigozhin said Russia should be under no illusion it can simply outlast Western support for Ukraine. In an interview Thursday, he called Ukraine’s much-anticipated counteroffensive “a pessimistic scenario.”

“The Ukrainians are given missiles, they prepare troops, of course they will continue their offensive, try to counterattack,” he said. “They will attack Crimea, they will try to blow up the Crimean bridge, cut off (our) supply lines. Therefore, we need to prepare for a hard war.”

Contributing: The Associated Press; Trevor Hughes and Jorge L. Ortiz, USA TODAY

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