Ukraine ‘concerned’ by Western push for Russia talks – security chief
The government in Kiev is worried that its Western backers are calling for peace out of an irrational fear of Russia, Aleksey Danilov, the head of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, said on Monday.
Danilov spoke via video link to the annual conference of the Halifax International Security Forum, a Washington, DC-based NGO funded in part by the Canadian government.
“Ukraine is concerned by the fact that discussions among certain partners have intensified regarding the need for negotiations, consultations, meetings with the Russians to discuss the issues of the war in Ukraine, a ceasefire, etc,” Danilov said, according to a transcript posted by his office.
He attributed this to a “rudimentary fear” of Russia and argued that the West should follow Ukraine’s example instead, as Moscow “only understands the language of force.”
According to Danilov, the current conflict is “a struggle between democracy and tyranny,” with the West and Ukraine on one side, and Russia, China, Iran and North Korea on the other. If Russia is not defeated, the world should expect a new “axis of evil” within 15-20 years that would include “some European countries” as well, he insisted. “Ukraine and the Ukrainian people will fight to the end. We are sure of our victory.”
President Vladimir Zelensky’s top security official described Ukraine’s ideal of victory as “controlled decomposition of Russia into several parts”leading not just to “regime change” in Moscow but the “de-sovereignization… denuclearization and demilitarization” of the neighboring country.
Meanwhile, he said, Ukraine needs more Western funding and support to restore its 1991 borders and become an economic powerhouse once more.
“Ukraine has every chance to become a strategic project of the West, which will demonstrate the full power of the vitality of democracy and the defense of universal values,” Danilov insisted. “The West must confirm that it is and remains the First, and a victorious Ukraine will serve as a convincing narrative in the modern confrontation between slavery and freedom!”
Earlier on Monday, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin arrived in Kiev to offer moral support for Ukraine, but had no new military assistance to announce. Meanwhile, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told the outlet CNBC that Ukraine is “utterly dependent” on US funding to keep paying the salaries of government workers, calling the continued funding of Kiev a “critical priority” for US national security.
Washington has blown through most of the congressionally approved funding for Ukraine and the White House has been trying to pressure Congress to pass more, so far with no effect.
Ukraine says Russian troops focusing on Bakhmut in the east
Ukrainian forces were engaged in containing increasing Russian attacks on Monday around the shattered eastern town of Bakhmut, military officials said.
The officials said Ukraine's troops had also achieved some success after crossing to the east bank of the Dnipro River in southern Kherson region.
Russia has concentrated on Ukraine's eastern regions after failing to move on Kyiv in the early days after the February 2022 invasion. Their progress has been slow.
Ukrainian forces have also made marginal gains in a five-month-old offensive in the east and south.
Moscow's forces seized Bakhmut in eastern Donetsk region in May after months of heavy fighting that left the town in ruins.
Volodymyr Fityo, a spokesperson for Ukrainian ground forces, said Russian troops focused attacks on Klishchiivka, a nearby village on heights retaken by Ukrainian forces in September.
"Russian occupying forces have brought in the necessary reserves and gone on the attack," Fityo told national television.
"Eleven attacks have been repelled in the past 24 hours. The enemy is trying to dislodge our men from defensive positions around Klishchiivka."
Russian accounts said Moscow's forces had beaten back more than 30 Ukrainian attacks in and around Bakhmut in the past week. The Russian Defence Ministry reported more than two dozen attacks near Kupiansk in Ukraine's northeast in a week.
Reuters could not verify accounts from either side.
ASSAULTS ON AVDIIVKA
Fighting in the east has also centred on the equally devastated town of Avdiivka, still in Ukrainian hands 20 months into the war and after more than a month of Russian assaults.
Military analyst Serhiy Zgurets, writing on the Espreso TV media outlet website, said Russian forces were trying to launch a new offensive on the town, known for its vast coking plant.
"To be truthful, enemy's attempts to surround Avdiivka have resulted in significant losses for them," Zgurets wrote.
Maksym Morozov, an Interior Ministry major, told Espreso that recent rains had left the ground soft and unsuitable for enemy equipment near the town, where 1,500 residents remain from a pre-war population of 32,000.
Another military spokesperson, Andriy Kovaliov, said Ukrainian forces had "carried out several successful and effective actions" on the east bank of the Dnipro nearly a week after military officials acknowledged their presence there.
Russian forces were making up to 10 daily attempts to dislodge Ukrainian forces from positions on the eastern bank and were drafting in reserves, he told national television.
Russian troops left the western bank of the river and the region's main city, Kherson, a year ago, but have since been shelling their abandoned positions from areas across the river.
Ukrainian authorities earlier reported that Russian shelling had killed three people and damaged power lines and a gas pipeline in Kherson region and in central Dnipropetrovsk region.
Two drivers were killed when Russian forces shelled a private transport company parking lot in Kherson, regional governor Oleksandr Prokudin said.
A woman was killed and a man injured in a Russian artillery strike on Nikopol, Dnipropetrovsk governor Serhiy Lysak said.