Ukraine claims it’s reached ‘turning point’
Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Olga Stefanishyna told France 24 on Tuesday that territorial gains near Kharkov are a “turning point” in the conflict with Russia, and have placed Kiev in a position of strength. While Stefanishyna claimed that Ukraine has rejected Russian offers of peace talks, Russia said it has conducted “massive strikes” on Ukrainian positions.
Ukraine reclaimed a swath of territory in Kharkov Region last week, with Kiev claiming a successful counteroffensive and Russia downplaying its significance, stating instead that it pulled its forces back to “regroup” and strengthen its positions in Donetsk.
“It’s not only the turning point of the full-scale war…it’s the turning point of the war that started in the spring of 2014,” Stefanishyna said, referring to Kiev’s eight-year effort to suppress the independence of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics.
Stefanishyna claimed that Russian officials reached out to Kiev in the days after the apparent counteroffensive, offering to talk peace terms in exchange for a ceasefire. Moscow has not commented on these claims, and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Sunday that Russia remains open to negotiations, but that peace will be made more difficult the longer the military operation continues.
Stefanishyna said that the supposed Russian offer was rebuffed, and that Ukraine will only enter negotiations after it has achieved its military objectives. Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky has repeatedly stated that Kiev’s military goals involve driving Russian forces out of Ukraine and recapturing both the Donbass republics and Crimea, which voted to rejoin Russia in 2014.
Despite Stefanishyna’s optimism, the Russian Ministry of Defense said on Tuesday that its air force, missile troops, and artillery conducted “massive strikes” on Ukrainian positions in the preceding day. Hitting Ukrainian units near Slavyansk and Konstantinovka in eastern Ukraine, and Artemovsk and Kurdyumovka in the Donetsk People’s Republic, the ministry said that its bombardments took out more than 800 Ukrainian and foreign troops.
Further attacks targeted Ukrainian units in the south of the country and near Kharkov in the north, the ministry said, while a separate series of strikes wiped out a 45,000-ton ammunition dump near the town of Voznesensk in Nikolaev Region and killed 300 Ukrainian troops.