Kiev’s troops are facing a “well-prepared” Russian defense, Jens Stoltenberg has said, promising more equipment for Ukraine
Russian forces managed to build up strong defensive lines ahead of the Ukrainian counteroffensive, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Tuesday. Kiev’s troops are now facing off with well-prepared and dug-in Russian forces, he said, weeks after the start of the much-touted Ukrainian operation, which has yet to yield any meaningful results.
“We know that Ukrainians face a difficult terrain, they face dug-in Russian resistance,” Stoltenberg said during a joint media engagement with Germany’s defense minister Boris Pistorius in the city of Flensburg.
Russian troops had been able to “establish static, well-prepared defense lines with minefields, with Dragon’s teeth, with tank trenches,” the NATO chief admitted. He also said that the military bloc would send additional demining equipment, including “heavy-armored demining” vehicles, to help its troops breach these extensive defenses. He did not name either the number or the exact type of hardware, which is supposedly to be delivered by Germany, the US and other NATO members.
Stoltenberg’s words came as Kiev sought to explain the lack of progress from its operation in the weeks since its start. Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Anna Malyar acknowledged that “it is quite difficult” for Ukrainian troops to advance. She also said that the Russian troops mounted an offensive of their own, seeking to reach the borders of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics, which are still partly controlled by Ukraine.
Kiev’s large-scale offensive began on June 4 after being talked up by Ukrainian and Western officials for several months. The operation has failed to bring any major changes to the frontline. According to the Russian Defense Ministry, the offensive has cost the Ukrainian forces thousands of lives. Last week, the ministry said Kiev had lost 7,500 frontline troops, either killed or wounded.
Russian President Vladimir Putin also said that the counteroffensive resulted in heavy losses for Ukraine, adding that Kiev also lost up to 30% of the equipment supplied by the West. A senior Russian MP, Andrey Kartapolov, said on Tuesday that the Ukrainian operation might end in a few weeks. If Kiev’s troops continued to lose personnel and equipment at the current pace, they would be unable to continue their attacks for much longer, the head of the State Duma’s Defense Committee said.