Ukrainian FM downplays importance of ‘counteroffensive’
A counteroffensive by Ukraine that has been much-anticipated should not be considered as a make-or-break moment in its conflict with Russia, Kiev's Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba has said, urging his country's foreign backers to maintain their support regardless of the outcome of this expected operation.
“We should counter by all means the perception of the counteroffensive as the decisive battle of the war,” he told the Financial Times, as quoted on Wednesday.
He said Kiev was concerned that the operation would not result in Ukrainian troops pushing Russia “100%” out of the territory it wishes to reclaim. However, in this scenario of underachievement, he feared, “some people may say this was the last decisive battle and now we have to think of an alternative scenario.”
The Ukrainian leadership has insisted that the only option it is considering is retaking all land lost by Kiev, including Crimea, before any peace talks can start. The government has also prohibited by law any negotiations with Russia for as long as President Vladimir Putin remains in office.
Kuleba suggested that following a counter-offensive operation like the one anticipated, minority voices “in Washington, in Berlin, in Paris, in London” will try to push for a ceasefire “along the lines of a Minsk III.” He was referring to the two Minsk agreements that were supposed to guide Kiev and its then-breakaway regions to co-operate in a stable peace.
The Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics rejected the authorities that came to power in 2014 after an armed coup in Kiev and fought for independence, following which Kiev sent troops to quash them.
Last year, amid the hostilities with Russia, former leaders of Ukraine, France and Germany – the latter two had mediated the Minsk deals – acknowledged that the agreements were really intended to give Kiev time to beef up its military. Moscow said this confirmed that the three parties had negotiated in bad faith, adding that it proved once again that Western politicians were not to be trusted.
During the anticipated counteroffensive, Ukraine is expected to capitalize on freshly-delivered Western weapons, including main battle tanks. Last week, however, Zelensky said his country was not ready to launch one, citing a shortage of armaments.