Ukraine 'MUST defeat Russia this year of risk losing Western support'

Ukraine ‘MUST defeat Russia this year of risk losing Western support’: Warning as Kyiv celebrates first success of its counterstrike against Putin’s troops around Bakhmut

  • Former head of the British Army says Russian military ‘might crumble’
  • Anticipated Ukrainian counteroffensive ‘may not be that far away’ 
  • Comments come as Kyiv makes advances in besieged city of Bakhmut 

Former head of the Army Sir Richard Dannatt has said Ukraine must defeat Russia this year or risk waning Western support.

Speaking on Times Radio on Monday, the former chief of the general staff said the Russian military ‘might crumble’ in an anticipated Ukrainian counter-offensive later this year.

He said: ‘The major counter-offensive which we are all expecting and which the Ukrainians are preparing for has not begun yet but probably is not that far away. If Ukraine is going to succeed in its stated objective of freeing its territory from Russian occupation this is the year they’ve got to do it.

Sir Richard’s comments come as Ukraine’s military on Monday hailed recent advances around Bakhmut as its first successful counterattack in the battle against Russian forces fighting for control of the eastern city.

But Kyiv also said the situation in Bakhmut was difficult, and said that Moscow had not changed its goal of capturing the city and was sending assault troops to the outskirts of Bakhmut.

A Ukrainian  serviceman gives water to a captured Russian soldier near Bakhmut on Thursday

Sir Richard added: ‘There is a danger that western support will wane. There is also a danger that [Vladimir] Putin will see that time is on his side, so it is really important that the Ukrainians do mount this offensive effectively at the right time.

‘If there are decisive blows struck against the Russians there is a chance that Russian military morale might crack and the Russian army might crumble in the way that we saw around Kharkiv last September.’

Ukrainian soldiers regroup after an offensive against Russia around Bakhmut last week

The Ukrainian military said last week it had started to push Russian forces back in and around Bakhmut after months of heavy fighting, and Moscow acknowledged that its forces had fallen back north of the city.

‘The advance of our troops along the Bakhmut direction is the first success of offensive actions in the defence of Bakhmut,’ Colonel General Oleksandr Syrskyi, Commander of Ground Forces, said in a statement posted on the Telegram messaging app.

‘The last few days have shown that we can move forward and destroy the enemy even in such extremely difficult conditions,’ he said. ‘We are fighting with fewer resources than the enemy. At the same time, we are able to ruin its plans.’

Kyiv is expected to launch a major counteroffensive soon to try to retake Russian-occupied territory, but Ukrainian officials have indicated that the gains around Bakhmut do not signal that the broader counterattack has begun.

Military medics give first aid to wounded Ukrainian soldiers near Bakhmut on Sunday

Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Maliar said heavy fighting continued in and around Bakhmut, and that ‘everything’ was difficult there.

‘The Russians have not changed their goals. They are sending assault troops to the outskirts of Bakhmut,’ she wrote on Telegram.

The battlefield reports could not be independently verified.

Moscow, which launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine nearly 15 months ago, sees Bakhmut as a stepping stone to attacking other Ukrainian cities. Kyiv has said previously that keeping up the defence of Bakhmut allows for the military to prepare its expected counteroffensive.

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