Putin’s forces face ‘annihilation’ as Ukraine counterattacks ramp up intensity

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Ukraine has launched the first steps of its eagerly awaited counteroffensive, according to one of President Zelensky’s top advisers. Mykhailo Podolyak claimed the intensity of Ukraine’s counterattacks was already increasing, with Kyiv’s forces targeting in particular Russian supply lines and ammunition depots. However, he dampened expectations of a swift victory, saying it was a “complicated process” that was “not a matter of one day or a certain date or a certain hour.”

In an interview with The Guardian, the Presidential adviser warned Putin that as the counteroffensive gathers momentum, Russia will face more attacks from rebels, who carried out a daring raid last week in the Belgorod border region.

He predicted that the Kremlin would lose control of Russia as a consequence of its disastrous war.

Podolyak denied the Russian rebels were acting on Kyiv’s orders, but said Ukraine’s government had sympathy for their actions and political goals.

“As an authoritarian regime exists in Russia, how can we prevent its own citizens from doing something about it?” he said.

“The further Ukraine goes towards liberating its territory, the more such incidents we see within Russian Federation territory.

“It’s an objective consequence of high-intensity war that will demonstrate that Russia cannot carry out the military action in Ukraine, and protect its own borders.

“Since Russia has already lost its conventional war, the consequences of this loss will gradually move into Russian territory, and the federal government will eventually lose control over its territory.”

Expectations of an imminent Ukrainian counteroffensive were raised on Saturday, after the commander of Ukraine’s armed forces posted a message to his Telegram channel.

General Valeriy Zaluzhny wrote: “The time has come to take back what’s ours.”

His message was accompanied by a video showing heavily armed Ukrainian troops standing next to their Leopard tanks and preparing for battle.

A narrator calls for strength to “annihilate” Ukraine’s enemies, as portentous music plays in the background.

In what appears to be a prayer, a voice says: “I go to annihilate the enemies of the motherland, the murderers of my brothers, the rapists of my sisters.

“Let my hand be firm to kill the enemies. Let my eye be clear to kill the enemies.

“Let my weapon be trustworthy to kill the enemies. Let my will be steel to kill the enemies.

“God, our heavenly father bless our decisive offensive, our sacred revenge, our holy victory.”

Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defence Council, told the BBC that the push could begin “tomorrow, the day after tomorrow or in a week.”

He added: “It would be weird if I were to name the dates of the start.”

Danilov said Kyiv had “no right to make a mistake” on the decision because it was a historic opportunity that “we cannot lose”.

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Overnight, Russia launched yet more air strikes on Kyiv using kamikaze drones.

Ukraine’s Air Force said it downed 52 out of the 54 Russia-launched UAVs, calling it a record attack.

Falling debris killed a 41-year-old man and injured a 35-year-old woman in the city, Mayor Vitali Klitschko said.

The pre-dawn attacks came as the country prepares to celebrate Kyiv Day on Sunday, the anniversary of the official founding of the capital city 1,541 years ago.

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