Counteroffensive action against Russian forces is under way, Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said, with troops engaged in intense fighting along the front line.
Speaking at a Kyiv news conference alongside Canada’s prime minister Justin Trudeau, Zelenskyy was responding to Vladimir Putin’s comment that Ukrainian forces were taking “significant losses”.
Mr Zelensky said: “The counteroffensive, defensive actions are taking place in Ukraine. I will not speak about which stage or phase they are in”.
Ukraine war latest:
700,000 people in need of drinking water after dam collapse
“I am in touch with our commanders of different directions every day,” he added, giving the names of five of Ukraine’s top military leaders.
“Everyone is positive. Pass this on to Putin.”
The latest from Ukraine:
• Fortunes in the counteroffensive will veer but casualties will rise significantly, according to Sky’s military analyst, Sean Bell
• Ukraine has successfully cut through the first line of Russian defences in the past 48 hours, says the UK’s ministry of defence
• Three have been killed overnight in attack on Odesa
• Only 15% of Kyiv bomb shelters are suitable for use without ‘significant issues’, an audit has found
• Russian forces launch Iranian-made Shahed drones, missiles, artillery and mortar strikes
• Ukraine says it shot down 20 of the 35 drones
Dam collapse makes life worse for Ukraine
Mr Trudeau is the first foreign leader to visit Ukraine since devastating floods caused by a breach in the Kakhovka dain the Dnieper River. He offered monetary, military and moral support for Ukraine.
Thousands of people are believed to be trapped after the dam’s collapse .
Mr Trudeau pledged millions in new military aid, on top of £4.7bn that Canada has already provided since the war began in February 2022, and announced £6m for humanitarian assistance for the flood response.
Mr Trudeau said the dam’s collapse was “a direct consequence of Russia’s war”, but he did not blame Moscow directly.
Meanwhile, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz says he wants to continue speaking to Mr Putin and plans to do so again “soon”. Mr Scholz has spoken several times by phone to Mr Putin since the invasion.
He said the basis for a “fair peace” between Russia and Ukraine is the withdrawal of Russian troops.
UN undersecretary-general Martin Griffiths said an “extraordinary” 700,000 people need drinking water.
He also fears the flooding could result in lower grain exports, higher food prices worldwide and less food for millions in need.
‘Heavy battles’ ongoing
Ukraine’s general staff said “heavy battles” are ongoing, with 34 clashes taking place on Friday in the country’s industrial east.
It gave no details but said Russian forces were “defending themselves” and launching air and artillery strikes in Ukraine’s southern Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions.
Recent western injections of military equipment, some of it high-tech and top-of-the-line, to Ukraine has raised expectations about when it would be used, and to what effect against dug-in Russian lines.
For months, Ukrainian commanders in the eastern city of Bakhmut, which was largely devastated in a months-long fight that has been one of the bloodiest battles of the war, have used the language of counteroffensive and defensive operations to describe the activity there.
At the Russia-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Europe’s largest – five out of six reactors were already in a state of cold shutdown – a process in which all control rods are inserted into the reactor core to stop the nuclear fission reaction and generation of heat and pressure.
Energoatom, the Ukrainian nuclear agency, said in a statement on Friday that there was “no direct threat” to the Zaporizhzhia plant due to the breach of the dam.