Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky appears to have confirmed that his country’s long-awaited counteroffensive against Russia has begun.
“Counteroffensive and defensive actions are taking place,” he said on Saturday.
He added, however, that he would not elaborate on at what stage or state the counteroffensive would be.
The comment comes amid escalating fighting in southern and eastern Ukraine and speculation about the widely anticipated development of the fighting.
Ukrainian forces reportedly advanced near Bakhmut in the east and near Zaporizhia in the south, launching long-range attacks against Russian targets.
But the contrasting narratives of the warring sides, with Ukraine claiming progress and Russia claiming to repel an attack, make it difficult to assess reality on the front lines. .
Russian President Vladimir Putin said in a video interview released Friday that Ukrainian forces did launch an offensive, but that the attempted advance failed with heavy casualties.
Mr Zelensky called the Russian leader’s words “interesting” after meeting Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Kiev.
Mr. Zelensky shrugged, raised his eyebrows and pretended not to know who Mr. Putin was, saying it was important to make Russia feel that “it’s not long.”
He also said the mood among Ukrainian military commanders was positive, adding: “Please pass that on to Putin.”
Prime Minister Trudeau announced C$500 million (£297 million) in new military aid to Ukraine during an unannounced visit.
In a joint statement issued after the talks, Canada said it would support Ukraine becoming a NATO member “as soon as conditions permit”, and the issue will be discussed at the NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, in July. added that it would.
Drone debris hits Odesa home
The press conference was held after an overnight Russian attack in the southern city of Odesa killed three people and injured dozens.
Falling debris from a downed Russian drone has set fire to a residential area in a port city on the Black Sea coast, Ukrainian officials said.
Another nightly attack by Russia targeted an airfield in central Poltava.
The Ukrainian Air Force said eight land-based missiles and 35 drones were involved in the six-hour attack on Odesa, and that air defenses were able to shoot down 20 drones and two cruise missiles.
“As a result of the air battle, debris from one of the drones fell into a high-rise apartment building, causing a fire,” Southern Command spokeswoman Natalia Khmenek said.
Emergency services said 27 people, including three children, were injured and the fire was quickly extinguished. 12 people were rescued from the building.
The images showed an apartment building in Odesa badly damaged, with debris covering the room and windows blown out. Some had large craters on the ground.
An airfield in the central Poltava region was also hit by Russia early Saturday morning, with ballistic and cruise missiles and drones involved, the local governor said. He said the airport’s infrastructure and equipment were damaged.
A 29-year-old man was killed in another attack in northeastern Kharkiv, officials said.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian forces are reportedly trying to regain access to the Sea of Azov, which divides Russian forces, as fighting has escalated in recent days in the critical southern Zaporizhzhya region, Russian officials said.
But major flooding in the south of the country after the Nova Khakovka dam was destroyed last week could thwart Ukraine’s hopes of progress in the region.
Flooding covered approximately 230 square miles (596 sq km) on both sides of the Dnipro River.
NATO and the Ukrainian military accuse Russia of blowing up the dam, while Russia accuses Ukraine.