Ukraine making ‘real gains’ but fighting is ‘close and hard’, Ben Wallace says

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Ukrainians are making “real gains” but fighting is “close and hard”, the Defence Secretary has said.

Ben Wallace made a statement in the Commons on the progress of Russia’s attack on its neighbour to update MPs as they returned to Westminster after their summer break.

It comes after Ukraine embarked on a counter-offensive in the Russian-occupied southern Kherson region, which Mr Wallace said had “some considerable success”.

While he said the Ukrainians are making gains, Mr Wallace said the fighting is intense.

He said: “On August 29, Ukraine embarked on a counter-offensive in the south of the country around the city of Kherson, on the west bank of the Dnipro River.

“Ukraine has inflicted serious damage on a range of river crossings with the aim of restricting Russian logistical support.

“This has had some considerable success.”

Mr Wallace said the Ukrainians are engaging with Russian forces, adding: “They are making real gains but understandably, as we have seen elsewhere in this conflict, the fighting is close and hard and Ukraine are suffering losses associated with an attacking force.”

On the other hand, Russia continues to “lose significant equipment and personnel”, he said.

He told MPs: “It is estimated to date that over 25,000 Russian soldiers have lost their lives, and in all, if you include killed casualties, captured, or the now reported tens of thousands of deserters, over 80,000 dead or injured and the other categories.

“This will have a long-lasting impact on Russia’s army and its future combat effectiveness.

Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his invasion on February 24, with many expecting a quick victory.

Six months later, the largest military conflict in Europe since the Second World War has turned into a grinding war of attrition.

Mr Wallace said the Government is working on an additional package of support for Ukraine, having already supplied thousands of anti-tank weapons, drones and military vehicles.

“The United Kingdom continues to give military aid… to the Ukrainian armed forces to help resist the illegal invasion,” he said.

“The total funding committed to this support is £2.3 billion.”

Mr Wallace also updated MPs on the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, saying the United Nations remains “gravely concerned” by the “dangerous situation”.

He was also later pressed by Conservative former minister Tim Loughton on the possibility of Mr Putin resorting to using “battlefield nuclear weapons”.

While Mr Wallace said “the conditions are not remotely met for that”, he said “we have seen in public President Putin evoke nuclear weapons, I think over 35 times in the last six months”.

He added: “The consequences of the use of tactical nuclear weapons, I think, would be global condemnation by all countries, including countries such as China, for Russia, and I think President Putin is well aware of that.”

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