PRAGUE — Ukrainian forces are showing signs of battlefield success in two counteroffensives, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said, adding that the United States will support Kyiv in its fight against invading Russian forces “for as long as necessary.”
Austin’s comments in Prague on Sept. 9 came amid growing evidence that Ukrainian forces are advancing in the southern part of the Kherson region, as well as in areas east and southeast of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky praised the success of the military in the east, saying in a late-night video message that Ukrainian troops have recaptured more than 30 settlements in the Kharkiv region since the start of the counter-offensive this week.
“We are gradually taking control of more and more settlements, returning the Ukrainian flag and protection to our people.” Zelensky said.
“Our army, intelligence, the Security Service of Ukraine continue active operations in several operational areas. They continue successfully,” he said.
While Kherson has been at the center of major fighting for a couple of weeks now, the onslaught from Kharkov has unfolded at lightning speed over the past couple of days.
“Now we see progress in Kherson,” Austin told reporters in Prague after meeting with his Czech counterpart Yana Chernokhova.
“We are seeing some progress in Kharkiv, and this is very encouraging,” he added.
In a late-night video message on September 8, President Volodymyr Zelensky said that over the past week, Ukrainian forces have “liberated dozens of settlements” and recaptured more than 1,000 square kilometers from Russian forces.
Meanwhile, the General Staff of Ukraine argued that the troops advanced 50 km east and southeast of Kharkov in three days.
Austin praised the combat capabilities of the Ukrainian forces, saying: “We were all impressed with what we saw. Their willingness to face a much larger, much stronger force and be effective in their efforts. Therefore, we are inspired by their courage and commitment,” he said.
“You heard [U.S.] The president [Joe] Biden says, and you heard me say several times, that we will support Ukraine for as long as it takes,” he added.
Austin was among about 50 defense ministers who gathered this week at Ramstein Air Base in Germany for the fifth meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group.
Advisor to the President of Ukraine Mikhail Podolyak This was reported by the Ukrainian service of Radio Liberty. that the government in Kyiv was “absolutely satisfied” with the meeting.
According to him, the defense ministers discussed defense policy, not politics, and analyzed how the war is going and what weapons Ukraine needs, as well as specific plans for their supply.
He added that it was important that the contact group decided that “Ukraine will be provided with all the necessary weapons” and decided in principle to ignore Russia’s statements.
Russian officials have said nothing about the situation on the Ukrainian front or Ukraine’s progress, although pro-Russian military bloggers have been documenting major movements on the front lines in both locations for days.
But on September 9, the Russian-appointed administrator of the occupied Kharkiv districts told Rossiya-24 television that Ukraine had won a “substantial victory” in the eastern region.
“The situation is now quite serious,” said Vitaly Ganchev. “The very fact of breaking through our defense is already a significant victory for the Ukrainian armed forces.”
WATCH; The US will support Ukraine’s fight against the Russian invasion “for as long as it takes,” Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said in Prague on September 9. and Kharkov.
Shortly before noon on September 9, a Russian rocket hit downtown Kharkiv, injuring at least 10 people, regional administrator Oleg Sinegubov said in a Telegram message.
The head of the presidential administration, Andriy Yermak, said the attacks were likely in retaliation for Ukrainian successes on the battlefield.
“For every success of the armed forces of Ukraine, for every victory, the Russians … respond with blows to innocent people,” Yermak wrote in telegramconfirming that there were children among the wounded.
On September 8, US officials announced another $675 million arms package for Ukraine, and on the same day pledged $2 billion to boost security in Europe. Thus, the total amount of US military supplies sent to Kyiv after the Russian invasion on February 24 exceeds $15.2 billion.
If two Ukrainian counter-offensives prove sustained and significant, they will further fuel doubts about Russia’s combat power and manpower, as well as the tactics of Russian commanders. They would also add questions to the Kremlin’s ultimate goals for the invasion, which have changed several times over the past seven months.
Earlier this week, President Vladimir Putin showed no signs that the Russian authorities were considering slowing down the pace of hostilities or reducing their losses in Ukraine.
“We have not lost anything and will not lose anything,” he said at the economic forum in Vladivostok.
American and Western officials estimate that Russia has recorded up to 80,000 casualties since the invasion, with at least a quarter of that number killed in action. According to the latest official data from the Russian Ministry of Defense, 1351 people died at the end of March.
During a September 9 visit to NATO headquarters in Brussels, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken chided Putin, saying he was heartlessly sacrificing Russian lives by dragging out the fight.
“There is a huge amount of Russian forces in Ukraine, and unfortunately, unfortunately, to the horror, President Putin has shown that he will throw a lot of people into this, which will cost Russia a lot of money, and this will cost her future dearly,” he said. Blinken. .